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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Morocco earthquake death toll tops 2,600 as frantic rescue efforts continue

Marrakech, Morocco— Hundreds of people stood in line for hours outside a blood bank in the central Moroccan city of Marrakech on Monday, some even passing out from the heat, but all of them determined do whatever they can for their country as it reels from the devastating earthquake that struck Friday night.

The United Nations estimated that some 300,000 people had been affected by the al-Houz quake — a powerful 6.8 magnitude temblor that struck a region unaccustomed and ill-prepared for such a jolt. On Monday, the death toll rose to 2,681, with another 2,501 injured, according to Morocco’s Ministry of Interior.

Video continued to emerge over the weekend capturing both the extent of the devastation, and the frenzied moments right after the earthquake struck the North African nation.

The frantic effort to find survivors was still underway, as others turned to mourning their loved ones.

“We were having dinner,” said Hamid Ben Henna. “I asked my son to bring a knife from the kitchen to cut the dessert, but he never did because as soon as he left the kitchen, the earthquake struck. He was buried in six feet of rubble.”

The worst of the destruction is in the scenic High Atlas Mountains, where dirt roads snake into snow-capped peaks. Many of those passes have been blocked by rockslides, making it impossible to reach those still trapped beneath the debris of their homes.

Some could still be saved, but many more will need to be found and laid to rest.

“We just couldn’t ever imagine something like this happening here really, It’s just been totally devastating,” said Helen Gallagher who emigrated to make Morocco her home. “We’re just in survival mode and trying to get help out to the people who most need it, and we’ll process it afterwards.”

In cities like Marrakech, with its famed Casbah, medieval buildings that have stood for 1,000 years have been badly damaged. Some have fallen, and others could topple at any moment.

The need for aid is immense and urgent. The U.S. Embassy in Morocco said it was aware of a small number of Americans who were hurt in the quake, but none who were killed.

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