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Morocco quake death toll passes 2,800 as rescuers search for survivors

Emergency crews work in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Amizmiz, Morocco, September 10, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

The death toll from Morocco's deadliest earthquake in more than six decades has risen to more than 2,800, as rescuers race against time to find survivors.

Search teams from Spain, Britain and Qatar were joining Moroccan rescue efforts on Monday after a 6.8-magnitude quake struck late on Friday in the High Atlas Mountains, with the epicenter 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech.

State TV reported the death toll had risen to 2,862 with 2,562 people injured. Rescuers said the traditional mud brick houses ubiquitous in the region reduced the chances of finding survivors because they had crumbled.

Footage from the remote village of Imi N'Tala showed men and dogs clambering over steep slopes covered in rubble.

After an initial response that was described as too slow by some survivors, search and rescue efforts appeared to be speeding up on Monday, with tent camps appearing in some locations where people were preparing for a fourth night outdoors.

A video filmed by Moroccan outlet 2M showed a military helicopter flying over an area close to the epicenter, dropping sacks of essential supplies to isolated families.

With much of the quake zone in hard-to-reach areas, the authorities have not issued any estimates for the number of people missing.

The harm done to Morocco's cultural heritage has been emerging gradually. Buildings in Marrakech old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were damaged. The quake also did major damage to the historically significant 12th-century Tinmel Mosque.

Residents in Tinmel, a remote village closer to the epicenter where 15 people were killed, said they had been sharing food, water and medicine, but desperately needed tents and blankets to shelter from the cold mountain nights.

In a televised statement on Sunday, government spokesperson Mustapha Baytas defended the government's response, saying every effort was being made on the ground.

The army said it was reinforcing search and rescue teams, providing drinking water and distributing food, tents and blankets.

King Mohammed VI has not addressed the nation since the disaster. Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch told local media the government would compensate victims, but gave few details.

Morocco has accepted offers of aid from Spain and Britain, which both sent search and rescue specialists with sniffer dogs, from the United Arab Emirates, and from Qatar, which said on Sunday a search-and-rescue team was on its way.

State TV said the government had assessed needs and considered the importance of coordinating relief efforts before accepting help, and that it might accept relief offers from other countries later.

(Source: Reuters)

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