Morocco earthquake: MSF teams witness “horrible devastation”

MSF is on the ground assessing the medical humanitarian needs.

Two people with MSF logos on their shirts walking amidst the concrete wreckage of the earthquake.

Morocco 2023 © John Johnson/MSF

In response to the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco on September 8, killing more than 2,600 people and destroying structures around the area, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are now on the ground assessing the medical humanitarian needs. 

Below, John Johnson, MSF emergency coordinator, describes the situation in the local villages surrounding the epicenter:

We arrived in Marrakech and visited Amizmiz, a village near the epicenter of the earthquake. There's a small clinic that's treating patients there. So far, they're working outside in a tent because people are afraid to stay inside buildings due to potential aftershocks and the risk of more buildings collapsing.

So right now, the patients are outside. When we first arrived, there were about three patients that were there overnight and the rest of the severe cases have been referred to a bigger hospital in Marrakech by ambulance. More people came around 8:30 in the morning and the place quickly filled up to about 15 patients with different types of wounds; broken arms, broken legs, cranial trauma, things like that. The doctors and nurses that were there were treating them the best they could.

Everybody's exhausted. They're working with the supplies that they had available at the time, but are starting to run low. The Moroccan authorities, Red Crescent volunteers, and Moroccan military have been mobilized. Mattresses have been distributed so people can sleep outside, along with distribution of water and food for people that don't have access. Additionally, there are ambulances moving back and forth between the epicenter and referral hospitals so people in villages can be evacuated quickly to where they can be treated.

We were also able to visit other villages near the epicenter and witnessed horrible devastation. There's nothing left but rubble and rocks. In the bigger cities, the more modern buildings seem to have held up pretty well, but a lot of the traditional buildings and the smaller villages have just been completely destroyed.

There's an ongoing search for survivors in the rubble. Tractors and forklifts are driving around trying to move the rocks away to see if we can find people trapped underneath. The most acute phase is probably over now and it's looking less and less likely that we'll find anyone alive, but they might still be able to find dead bodies to properly bury them.

MSF is making an assessment to see where the needs are and how we can help the Moroccan authorities with their response. We're meeting different hospital directors to see if there are needs in terms of human resources or pharmacy supplies or logistical needs that we can support in the coming days.

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