Friday, September 8th, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Morocco’s High Atlas Mountain range. The epicenter was located just 72 kilometers southwest of Marrakech, the country’s fourth-largest city and a popular tourist destination. The quake is the strongest to hit the nation’s center in more than a century. Estimates put the number of victims at over 2,000 and more injured, but as several towns and villages remain inaccessible high in the mountains, the number is expected to increase. In addition to the human toll, several historical landmarks, including UNESCO World Heritage sites, have been affected, while eyewitnesses in the foothills of the mountains report that several remote towns have been completely destroyed, according to CNN.
While the extent of the damage is still unclear, Marrakesh’s old city has been reported to have been particularly affected. The old city is known as Medina of Marrakesh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 containing buildings that date back to the 11th century, when the Almoravid dynasty built the settlement into a political, economic, and cultural center, with its influence felt throughout the western Muslim world. The site contains several monuments dating from that period, including the Koutoubiya Mosque, the Kasbah, the battlements, monumental doors, and gardens. Later architectural landmarks include the Bandiâ Palace, the Ben Youssef Madrasa, the Saadian Tombs, and Place Jamaâ El Fna, an open-air theatre.
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According to Aljazeera reports, the 69-meter-tall minaret of the famous Koutoubiya Mosque, a treasured spiritual center, appears to remain unharmed, but other media reports show that the minaret, known as “Marrakesh’s roof,” has suffered substantial cracks. The Kharboush mosque’s minaret in the corner of the famous Jemaa el-Fna square has collapsed, and the entire mosque is believed to be at risk. Reports also show that parts of the famous red sandstone walls that surround the old city have been severely damaged, while debris and rubble blocked off alleyways, making it difficult to get rescue teams onsite. The 12th-century Tinmel mosque, a significant example of the Almohad architecture located 100 kilometers south-east of Marrakesh, has also been destroyed.
In the modern parts of Marrakech, the impact has been minimal. The worst destruction happened, however, in the remote areas of the High Atlas Mountains. The Al Haouz Province, known for the scenic villages spread across the mountain range, has been among the most affected. According to AP News, in the village of Ijjoukak, located near North Africa’s tallest mountain peak, residents estimate that 200 buildings have been completely leveled. Many of the villages are isolated and difficult to access, making the first aid efforts even more difficult.
Here is a list of links where you can contribute to help the victims in the most affected regions of Morocco, as compiled by The New York Times:
- Moroccan Red Crescent Society has mobilized rescue teams on the ground with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. You can contribute to their Disaster Response Emergency Fund.
- Global Giving is collecting donations to provide survivors with food, fuel, clean water, medicine, and shelter.
- UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) said it is ready to send teams to Morocco to assess local needs and provide support. It is accepting donations here.
- CARE, an organization that works with impoverished communities, is accepting donationsto support its teams on the ground that are helping provide emergency water, food, shelter, and medical support.
- For those near the earthquake area, the Marrakesh Regional Blood Transfusion Center is urging people to donate blood.
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