Morocco Earthquake and Libya Flood Leave Many Thousands Dead, Injured, or Missing

By Emily Thompson

A massive earthquake in Morocco last week and a devastating flood in Libya this week have killed thousands of people, while many more are injured or missing. These catastrophic events mean that Moroccan and Libyan citizens are in desperate need of assistance.

In Morocco, approximately 3,000 people are dead and 6,000 are injured after a rare magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit the al-Haouz province in the High Atlas Mountains just southwest of Marrakesh.

The earthquake happened due to a reverse fault that occurred between the Morocco and Iberia microplates, which are both part of the larger African plate.

In Libya, even more people died, with latest numbers reaching 8,000. According to an AP report, “Mediterranean storm Daniel caused deadly flooding in many towns of eastern Libya on Sunday, but the worst-hit was Derna. Two dams outside in the mountains above the city collapsed, sending floodwaters washing down the Wadi Derna river and through the city center, sweeping away entire city blocks. Waves rose as high as 7 meters (23 feet).”

According to an earlier AP report, a spokesman for the Ambulance and Emergency Center in eastern Libya, said at least 5,100 deaths were recorded in Derna, along with around 100 others elsewhere in eastern Libya. More than 7,000 people were injured in the city, most receiving treatment in field hospitals that authorities and aid agencies set up.

The number of deaths is likely to increase since teams are still collecting bodies from the streets, buildings, and the sea, he said. At least 9,000 remain missing.

At least 30,000 people in Derna were displaced by the flooding, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration said.

With a death toll likely to reach and even surpass 12,000, the citizens of Morocco and Libya are in desperate need of assistance. While Morocco is a functioning country, Libya is not. The war-torn country is split between rivals in the eastern and the western halves of the country.

Derna, about 560 miles east of the capital, Tripoli, is controlled by the forces of powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter, who is allied with the eastern Libyan government. The rival government in western Libya, based in Tripoli, is allied with other armed groups.

Several countries have offered assistance but King Mohammed VI has made it clear that Western Sahara is the lens through which Morocco would view all foreign engagement. Aid offers are viewed as tools of foreign policy and will not be accepted from countries that do not unequivocally recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia, as well as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have sent rescue teams and aid, but the King has only accepted aid from “friendly” nations including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, and Britain.

U.S. President Joe Biden said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation” and “stands ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary to the Moroccan people.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Morocco’s foreign minister over the weekend to offer condolences and assistance.

“They also discussed how the United States can best support the government of Morocco’s leadership of the humanitarian response to the tragedy, and the secretary and the foreign minister pledged to stay in close contact as the response efforts continue,” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said.

However, as of Wednesday, a plan for U.S. aid hadn’t been finalized.

“We have made the offer for assistance and are in close consultations about how we can provide that assistance,” Miller said.

As outlined on The Weather Channel, aid organizations are helping in Morocco and Libya including Doctors Without Borders.

“We’re meeting different hospital directors to see if there are needs in terms of human resources or pharmacy supplies, or if there are logistical needs that we can support. We’ll be trying to figure out the best way we can help them in the next few days,” the group said in a news release.

T​he International Committee of the Red Cross was already active in Libya before the flooding, due to humanitarian issues including lack of clean drinking water and access to medical care, and is accepting donations to assist those in need following this latest tragedy.

People can also donate to disaster relief in general through the Red Cross U.S. website.

C​ARE, also listed on the USAID website, is an aid group prioritizing assistance to women and girls, youth and disadvantaged groups. Donations will help fund water, food, shelter and medical support.

To avert yet another tragedy and further loss of life, governments and aid groups must step up efforts to assist the victims in Libya. As for Morocco, the King has refused to accept the numerous aid offers from other countries, thereby placing his own people in mortal danger. If the King continues to refuse assistance and they do not receive aid in the near future, thousands of Moroccan citizens will be faced with more devastation, disease, and even death.

Image: Anthony Freda Art

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