Amidst the heart-wrenching aftermath of a catastrophic 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco on September 10, 2023, villagers in Tafeghaghte, located 60 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh, gathered to inspect the ruins of their collapsed homes. With the death toll exceeding 2,000, Moroccans united in mourning on this solemn day, while dedicated rescue teams worked tirelessly to locate and free survivors trapped beneath the debris of razed villages. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

TAFEGHAGHTE, Morocco — In the wake of a catastrophic earthquake that has claimed the lives of more than 2,100 people and reduced entire villages to rubble, Morocco is witnessing an unparalleled display of resilience as both local and international rescuers join forces to search for survivors.

The North African nation experienced its most powerful earthquake in history, registering a magnitude of 6.8 on Friday, striking a region situated 72 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of the popular tourist destination, Marrakesh. The quake mercilessly wiped out entire communities nestled within the picturesque Atlas mountains.

On Sunday, the region experienced an aftershock measuring 4.5, further unsettling an already devastated area.

In the solemn aftermath of the powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck on September 8, 2023, in central Morocco, somber residents of the village of Imi N’Tala near Amizmiz came together to bear the heavy burden of carrying the remains of one of the earthquake’s tragic victims on September 10, 2023.

The village of Tafeghaghte, located 60 kilometers from Marrakesh, bore the brunt of the disaster, with nearly all its buildings reduced to rubble. Local and military rescue teams, alongside civilian volunteers, tirelessly scoured the debris for survivors and the remains of the deceased. Tragically, only one body was recovered from the ruins of a house, with four others still entombed beneath the wreckage.

Heart-wrenching scenes of devastation unfolded as survivors like Zahra Benbrik, 62, grappled with their grief. She lamented the loss of 18 family members, her voice heavy with sorrow as she awaited the recovery of her brother’s body. “Everyone is gone! My heart is broken. I am inconsolable,” she cried, her plea for a swift resolution echoing the collective anguish of the affected communities.

Many of the houses in these remote mountain villages were constructed from mud bricks, making them particularly vulnerable to the seismic forces unleashed by the earthquake.

The latest development in the Morocco earthquake response includes the dispatch of sixty UK search and rescue specialists, along with four search dogs and essential rescue equipment, to join the Moroccan-led efforts in the affected region. This collaborative effort reaffirms the UK’s unwavering support for Morocco during this challenging time. 🇬🇧🇲🇦

The nearby village of Amizmiz, close to Tafeghaghte, saw heavy machinery removing the largest rubble pieces before rescue workers meticulously dug through the dusty debris to retrieve a body, hidden beneath what appeared to be a quilt.

The epicenter of the earthquake was situated in Al-Haouz province, where authorities reported a staggering 1,351 fatalities. Moroccan public television reported that “more than 18,000 families have been affected” in Al-Haouz, highlighting the far-reaching consequences of the disaster.

In a heartening display of solidarity, citizens of Marrakesh rushed to local hospitals to donate blood, offering their support to the injured.

In the wake of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco on September 8, officials were diligently engaged in rescuing victims on Saturday, September 9. Regrettably, the death toll has since risen to surpass 2,000 lives lost as of this Sunday, underscoring the gravity of the disaster. (EPA-EFE/JALAL MORCHIDI)

Spain swiftly responded to the crisis by dispatching an A400 airlifter carrying 56 rescuers and four search dogs to aid in the search and rescue operations. Spain’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles emphasized the importance of swift action during the initial hours following a disaster, particularly when people may still be trapped under debris.

Marrakesh residents, like Fatema Satir, faced a daunting reality as they sought refuge from the tremors. Many spent nights sleeping on the streets, fearing the collapse of their homes. Satir expressed her concerns, saying, “There is no help for us. Our houses have been cracked, others destroyed – like my daughter’s house, which was wiped out. We are in a chaotic state.”

In a somber gesture, the Moroccan government declared three days of national mourning for the victims.

While aid offers poured in from various countries, Morocco accepted assistance from only four nations at this stage: Britain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Spain. The Moroccan interior ministry cited the need for effective coordination as a reason for limiting the acceptance of aid offers.

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to mobilize technical and security teams to assist Morocco as required, and leaders from around the world, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and representatives from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Union, and European Commission, expressed their commitment to offer both technical and financial support.

The United States also declared its readiness to deploy search-and-rescue teams, and Pope Francis extended his support to those affected by the disaster.

In a remarkable gesture of goodwill, Algeria, despite historical tensions with neighboring Morocco, reopened its airspace, closed for two years, to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and the evacuation of the injured.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who oversaw the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and Morocco in 2020, offered to send search-and-rescue teams, affirming that “Israel stands by Morocco in its difficult time.”

In the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that struck near Amizmiz, south of Marrakesh, Morocco, diligent search and rescue workers meticulously sifted through the debris in their relentless efforts to recover the bodies of victims, as depicted in this image captured on September 11, 2023.

The Red Cross, cautioning against unrealistic expectations, warned that the road to recovery would be long and arduous. Hossam Elsharkawi, the director for the Middle East and North Africa, emphasized, “It won’t be a matter of a week or two… We are counting on a response that will take months, if not years.”

This earthquake represents the deadliest natural disaster Morocco has faced since the devastating 1960 earthquake that laid waste to Agadir, claiming over 12,000 lives. As Morocco grapples with the aftermath of this latest tragedy, the nation’s resilience and the global community’s outpouring of support serve as a testament to the strength of the human spirit in times of adversity.