Earthquake Devastates Moroccan Citizens

Rescuers carry a victim through the rubble. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

On Sept. 8, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Morocco in the High Atlas Mountains, leaving more than 2,900 people dead and more than 5,600 people injured. This has been the worst earthquake to hit Morocco since 1960, when a 5.9 magnitude earthquake devastated Agadir.

The area hit was a poorer, rural countryside with houses made of mudbrick. Earthquakes are uncommon in Morocco, so most buildings are ill-equipped to deal with these tremors. In total, more than 50,000 homes were damaged. 

Twelve foreign countries have offered aid for the disaster, but Morocco only accepted aid from four of these countries. “International humanitarian aid always flows from developed to undeveloped countries,” said former President of Action Against Hunger Sylvie Brunel. “As an emerging country, which … aspires to the status of regional power in Africa, [Morocco] wants to show that it is sovereign, capable of managing relief and not behave like a poor country.” 

Some of the affected areas are impoverished, and publicly showing these images may discourage tourism, one of Morocco’s biggest industries. According to the New York Times, the Moroccan government’s response to the crisis was relatively slow. King Mohammed VI is the head of both political and religious matters within Morocco, and his authorization is required for any government action to take place. The other government institutions were waiting for his approval to act appropriately. 

The Moroccan state media showed footage of helicopters airlifting supplies to remote areas, and King Mohammed VI ordered the government to provide shelter for those in need, yet many Moroccans criticized the government aid for being slow and uncoordinated on social media. Some residents complained that rescue teams only came after a few days had passed, despite the first three days after an earthquake being the most critical to a victim’s survival. Government spokesmen, including Mustapha Baitas, have dismissed these criticisms as false narratives from the foreign press. 

This slow response forced citizens to take matters into their own hands. Along with the help of volunteers, citizens from around Morocco have created their own relief funds. 

Using trucks filled with blankets, food and water, citizens drove up poorly maintained roads to reach these remote villages in need. “People from all over Morocco have come to help,” said one local resident. 

Tropical Storm Daniel Floods Libya

Buildings in Derna have been left in ruin due to Storm Daniel. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

On Sept. 11, two dams in Libya collapsed due to tropical storm Daniel. Surrounding neighborhoods were flooded, and more than 10 thousand people have been reported missing. The worst affected city was Derna, where almost 25% of the city was covered in water. 

The issues with the dam started more than a decade ago under the regime of dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. 

The dams were deteriorating and needed repair, so a Turkish construction company. called Arsel, signed a $30.1 million deal with Libyan water officials in 2007. 

However, the Gaddafi regime was overthrown in 2011, and Arsel left Libya due to political instability. Arsel sites were sacked by Lybian rebels, resulting in $5 million in damages. 

The only work done to the dams was preparational, meaning that no concrete had been poured, and no pipes had been laid. In the end, the dams remained damaged while the Libyan government paid $6 million to the company. The dams had not been repaired since.

The poor maintenance of the dams has highlighted mismanagement and corruption within the Libyan government. 

After the 2011 revolt, Libya has been geographically split by two rival factions: the western half is governed by a government based in Tripoli and the eastern half is governed by a warlord named Khalifa Hifter. 

These Political leaders have remained in power by putting off reelection, despite the wishes of the citizens.“[They] have held the country ransom for years,” said Mohamed Dorda, the co-founder of Libya Desk, a risk consultancy. “The only time they do work together is to coordinate to extend the conflict or stay in power or spoil elections.”

The two parties have agreed on an arrangement to profit and stay in power, and the infrastructure and public works have greatly suffered.  

Despite having one of the highest oil reserves in the world, many Libyans rely on their own wells and power generators, as frequent power outages and a lack of running water are relatively common due to the lack of government spending. 

The Libyan Attorney General Al-Siddiq Al-Sour has been investigating the disaster. In total, 16 officials have been detained, including the mayor of Derna and current water authority officials. “There is no need for an international investigation into the disaster,” stated Sour. “The Libyan judiciary is capable of conducting an investigation into the Derna disaster.”

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