Hundreds feared dead as earthquake hits northern Morocco

Published: 24 February 2004

More than 200 relief workers from the Moroccan Red Crescent are at the scene of a powerful earthquake (6.3 on the Richter scale) that struck the Mediterranean coast of Morocco at 02:30 in the morning of Tuesday 24 February.

Hundreds are feared dead as initial reports say that several villages south of the resort town of Al Hoceima were badly damaged, with mud brick houses having collapsed on their sleeping inhabitants. According to the Moroccan civil defence, the village of Ait Kamara, about 14 kilometres south of Al Hoceima was completely destroyed.

The Red Crescent, which is closely coordinating relief efforts with the authorities, has despatched 1,500 blankets, 100 tents, 150 mattresses, 200 jerry cans and tarpaulins to the area. It is also participating in assessing damages and immediate needs. A medical team of four doctors and 20 nurses has also been sent to the site.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has released 75,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund. A Federation Field Assessment and Coordination team is also on standby, ready to leave today to support the Moroccan Red Crescent relief operation. The Melilla branch of the Spanish Red Cross has despatched first aid kits.

“The most urgent priority is to search for survivors and give them proper medical attention,” says Baddredine Bensaoud, secretary general of the Moroccan Red Crescent. “This mountainous area is difficult to reach. So far, we believe some 150 people are dead, but the numbers may rise as we reach these remote villages.”

This is the most powerful earthquake to have affected the region since 1964.

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