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Rebuilding Morocco: Earthquake Devastation and Road to Recovery

Kira H.

On September 8, 2023, Morocco experienced a deadly earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8, resulting in the loss of over 2,900 lives and injuring more than 5,000 people. Oukaïmedene, the earthquake's epicenter in the Atlas Mountains, felt tremors as far as Casablanca, approximately 244.8 kilometers away (152 miles).

It is important to note that earthquakes in northern Morocco are common, posing an ongoing threat to Moroccans and the country’s infrastructure. Over the past six decades, the nation has endured catastrophic earthquakes, the most horrifying one striking in 1960, with a magnitude of 5.8, resulting in 12,000 fatalities and 12,000 injuries in the western town of Agadir. More recently, in 2004, northern Morocco faced a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5, leading to the loss of 630 lives, hundreds of injuries, and thousands left homeless. In the intervening years, smaller earthquakes have also occurred, causing minor disruptions,serving as a reminder of the region’s susceptibility to seismic activity.

Survivors of the earthquake have been left scared and devastated, expressing their frustration with Moroccan authorities, who they felt were slow to respond to the crisis. While the government has made significant efforts to help the affected areas, deploying military and medical aid and establishing a donation fund, the grim reality is that many survivors are still waiting for help. Several nations with strained relations with Morocco have offered aid, but as of now, they have not received a response. The reason behind the Moroccan government's hesitance to accept aid from certain countries is complex, although there are speculations of geopolitical factors playing a central role - factors tied to a conflicting diplomatic histories and relations between countries such as France and Algeria. Morocco’s Interior Ministry stated that a "lack of coordination in such cases would be counterproductive." The most affected areas are in remote mountain regions, making it transparent that authorities need to carefully manage external assistance.

In their efforts to reconstruct areas struck by the earthquake, the royal palace has outlined a comprehensive plan to disperse at least $11.7 billion over the next five year to affected areas. This plan will be financed through government funds, international aid, and a dedicated earthquake relief fund. The earthquake's impact led to the destruction of at least 50,000 homes, which the government aims to rebuild. However, this only scratches the surface of the losses inflicted by the earthquake. There are urgent pleas for basic necessities like food and water, as well as the need to regain a sense of normalcy. The earthquake has left a profound emotional scar on the affected population, forcing them to constantly relive the trauma due to omnipresent reminders of their losses. The rebuilding plan should incorporate the establishment of mental health centers, safe spaces for those seeking support and comfort while coping with their trauma. Prioritizing mental health in earthquake recovery efforts will contribute not only to the physical reconstruction of communities but also to the emotional healing of their citizens.

In these challenging times, it's important to remember that government decision-making is complex, and speculation should not overshadow the fact that lives have been lost, homes and livelihoods destroyed, and loved ones taken away. This is a heartbreaking situation, and rather than a search for blame, all Moroccan people need our support and solidarity.

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