Search and rescue teams respond to Moroccan following earthquake.

International Response to Moroccan Earthquake

Search teams have finally reached the remote Moroccan mountain towns devastated by a powerful earthquake that struck last Friday, claiming the lives of over 2,900 people. The earthquake, measuring 6.8 in magnitude, stretched from the High Atlas Mountains to the historic city of Marrakesh, causing widespread destruction, rendering survivors homeless, and leaving them in dire need of shelter, food, and clothing.

UK Isar Assessment and Rescue Efforts

The UK International Search and Rescue (UK Isar) team, among a limited number of foreign rescue teams present in Morocco, initiated damage assessments and health evaluations in mountainous regions as part of the international relief efforts. They are actively treating the injured and conducting search and rescue operations in collapsed structures.

Scale of the Disaster and Humanitarian Impact

The United Nations estimates that approximately 300,000 people were affected by this earthquake, the most powerful to strike Morocco in 120 years. Its relatively shallow depth intensified its impact. Al Haouz province in the High Atlas Mountains suffered the most destruction and casualties, with homes collapsing and roads becoming impassable due to debris. In some cases, residents have taken it upon themselves to clear rubble and assist their neighbors. Entire villages have been flattened, and locals are using any available equipment to provide aid.

Challenges in Relief Efforts

Blocked roads are hampering the delivery of essential medical assistance, and authorities are urgently working to clear debris. The mountainous terrain, risk of landslides, and vast distances make rescue and relief operations exceedingly challenging. The UK Government dispatched 60 search and rescue specialists, along with four search dogs and rescue equipment to aid Morocco. Several other nations, including Spain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, have offered assistance, although some foreign rescue teams are awaiting permission to deploy.

Coordinated Aid and Ongoing Concerns

Morocco’s interior ministry aims to ensure coordinated aid efforts to avoid counterproductive overlaps. Tifawt Belaid, a senior program manager at ActionAid, reported immediate needs for food and shelter in the worst-affected areas. Many homes are uninhabitable, and the ongoing risk of landslides due to aftershocks further endangers rural communities. Additionally, the threat of heavy rainfall exacerbates the risk of landslides, leaving hundreds of thousands exposed to the elements.

UK Isar and National Resilience

UK Isar is part of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) national resilience efforts and remains on standby to mobilize and assist disaster-affected countries upon request. NFCC chairman Mark Hardingham expressed solidarity with those affected by the earthquake and highlighted the deployment of a team of specially trained firefighters and medics from the UK to provide vital support and save lives.

Humanitarian Response and Appeal for Aid

Islamic Relief UK has launched an appeal to raise £10 million to aid relief efforts, including a nationwide mosque collection on September 15. Director Tufail Hussain acknowledged the generosity of donors and the community, emphasizing the urgent need for assistance in the wake of this devastating natural disaster.

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