Frustration Mounts With Morocco Earthquake Aid Yet to Reach Some Survivors as Toll Tops 2,900

A view shows destroyed houses in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in the village of Tinmel, Morocco, Tuesday. (REUTERS/Nacho Doce)

TALAT N’YAAQOUB, Morocco (Reuters) – Many survivors of Morocco’s earthquake struggled in makeshift shelters on Tuesday after a fourth night in the open, while villagers in devastated mountain areas voiced frustration at having received no help from the authorities.

The death toll from the 6.8-magnitude quake that struck in the High Atlas Mountains late on Friday evening rose to 2,901, while the number of people injured more than doubled to 5,530, state media reported.

It was the North African country’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 and its most powerful in more than a century.

Rescuers from Spain, Britain and Qatar were helping Morocco’s search teams, while Italy, Belgium, France and Germany said their offers of assistance had yet to be approved.

The situation was most desperate for people in remote areas cut off by landslides triggered by the earthquake that blocked access roads, while in accessible locations relief efforts were stepping up with tent camps and distribution of food and water.

In his first media appearance since the earthquake struck, King Mohammed VI visited Marrakech – 72 kilometers (45 miles) from the tremor’s epicenter – to meet injured people at a hospital, where the state news agency said he donated blood.

State media said on Saturday he chaired a meeting assigning aid funds, but he has made no public address about the disaster.

Hopes of finding survivors were fading, not least because many traditional mud brick houses that are common in the High Atlas crumbled to earthen rubble without leaving air pockets.

Many villagers have had no power or telephone network since the earthquake struck and have had to rescue loved ones and pull out dead bodies buried under their crushed homes without any assistance.

In Marrakech, some historic buildings in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and major tourist destination, were damaged.

More modern districts of Marrakech escaped largely unscathed, including a site near the airport earmarked for IMF and World Bank meetings due to be held next month.

More than 10,000 people were expected at the meetings, which the government wants to go ahead with, sources said.

Morocco has accepted offers of aid from Spain, Britain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, but has not taken up offers of help from Italy, Belgium, France and Germany.

Germany said on Monday it did not think the decision was political, but Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Taji told radio station Rtl on Tuesday that Morocco had chosen to receive aid only from countries with which it had close relations.

French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the Moroccan public in a video message on Tuesday, saying Paris was ready to provide direct humanitarian aid if King Mohammed accepted France’s offer.

“I wanted to address Moroccans directly to tell you that France was devastated… by this terrible earthquake,” Macron said. “We will be at your side.”

Paris and Rabat have had strained relations in recent years – notably over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, which Morocco wants France to recognize as Moroccan. Morocco has not had an envoy in Paris since January.

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