After the severe earthquake in Morocco that left more than 1,300 dead, several countries offered their help to the North African country.

The preparations by the Technical Relief Agency (THW) are underway, said Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) to the German Press Agency. “As soon as we have more information about what help is specifically needed, we can send our specialists to Morocco.” The day after the natural disaster, the full extent of the damage was initially unclear.

The earthquake and its effects

The quake occurred late on Friday evening at 11:11 p.m. local time. According to the US Earthquake Observatory USGS it had a magnitude of 6.8, according to the Helmholtz Center Potsdam it was 6.9. The epicenter was a good 70 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh in the Atlas Mountains. According to the USGS, the quake occurred at a depth of 18.5 kilometers. According to experts, earthquakes at such shallow depths are particularly dangerous.

According to official figures, at least 1,305 people were killed. According to the Interior Ministry, at least 1,832 other people suffered injuries. It was expected that the number of deaths and injuries would continue to rise. Areas from the Atlas Mountains to the old town of Marrakech were affected. Morocco has declared three days of national mourning. National flags at all public institutions should be flown at half-mast, as the state news agency (MAP) reported on Saturday evening, citing a statement from the royal court.

Rescue efforts and international support

Rescue workers in several countries are already packing up supplies in case they are requested by Morocco. “Time is running out,” said Julián Hidalgo, coordinator of the Seville Fire Department’s Spanish dog team. The chances of finding any survivors under the rubble dwindled by the hour.

Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders said they contacted the Moroccan authorities to send teams to the disaster area. “One thing is certain: the people in the disaster regions now urgently need humanitarian help,” said Christian Reuter, Secretary General of the German Red Cross (DRK).

According to a THW spokesman, rescue teams or water treatment plants are conceivable. Rescuers from the aid organization I.S.A.R. Germany and the Federal Association of Rescue Dogs are ready. The operations management of the two organizations met in the situation center in Hünxe in North Rhine-Westphalia, and everything was being prepared for an operation in the camp, said I.S.A.R. spokesman Stefan Heine.

The federal government checked whether Germans were also among the victims. The Foreign Office in Berlin said there is currently no knowledge that German nationals are among the victims. However, the situation in the earthquake area is still very confusing in parts. The Foreign Office is in contact with the local authorities and tour operators and is monitoring the situation closely.

Search for survivors

Pictures and videos on social media showed piles of rubble, destroyed buildings and damaged parts of the famous red walls that surround Marrakech’s old town, a Unesco world heritage site. Other videos showed screaming people leaving restaurants in the city. Deaths were reported in many provinces. Shortly after the first quake there was an aftershock measuring 4.9. Many stayed outside for fear of further tremors. Residents stood in streets or crouched on sidewalks.

Rescue workers searched for survivors under the rubble. There were fears that the official number of victims would continue to rise as forces reached remote regions. The Moroccan news site Hespress, citing the Interior Ministry, reported that the armed forces and civil defense were using all means to provide aid and assess the damage. Accordingly, most of the damage occurs outside the cities.

Historical earthquakes in Morocco

The quake was felt within a radius of 400 kilometers, said Nasser Jabour, head of a department at the National Institute of Geophysics, to the Moroccan news agency MAP. The quake also damaged parts of the UNESCO World Heritage site in the old town of Marrakech. The regional head of the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, Hassan Hernan, told the German Press Agency: “The picture will only be complete in 48 hours, but what is certain is that the damage to important historical sites in the old town has so far been minimal.”

There was great international concern. Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his condolences. “In these difficult hours, our thoughts are with the victims of the devastating earthquake,” said the SPD politician on the X platform (formerly Twitter). UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the United Nations stands ready to support the government of Morocco.

EU Council President Charles Michel assured the EU’s support. Other countries offered humanitarian aid and support for reconstruction – in addition to Portugal, Israel and Great Britain. Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his condolences to the King of Morocco. The Pope expressed deep sadness in a letter of condolence. US President Joe Biden said he was “deeply sad”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also expressed his condolences. The southeast of his country and Syria were affected by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in February – more than 50,000 people died in Turkey alone.

The earthquake in Morocco was the deadliest in several decades. In 1960, there was one in the southern Moroccan coastal city of Agadir with a magnitude of 5.8 that reportedly killed more than 12,000 people.