Rescuers are racing to find survivors of the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 2,000 people and injured another 2,000 after it struck western Morocco late Friday.
The death toll is expected to rise significantly after the earthquake, which was the strongest quake to hit the area in over a century.
“We’re just waiting for Morocco’s green light,” a European Union official told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
U.S. deputy national security adviser Jon Finer also said Sunday that the United States has search and rescue teams ready to deploy.
As of early Sunday, King Mohammed VI has not publicly requested international assistance or directly addressed the nation.
These are the key developments so far:
– This is the first quake of such magnitude to hit the area in more than 100 years, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said in a preliminary report. Earthquakes of this size there are “uncommon but not unexpected,” it said, adding that there had been none with a magnitude higher than 6 since 1900.
– The earthquake struck about 47 miles to the south east of the city of Marrakesh, at a depth of about 11 miles (18.5 kilometres), putting it in the category of a shallow earthquake, which tend to be more destructive.
– More than 300,000 people in Marrakesh and its outskirts have been affected by the disaster, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
– Players from Morocco’s national soccer team gave blood after health officials appealed for donations to help those injured in the quake, the team said in a social media post that included a video of the players at a health facility.
– The vastness of the quake zone and the complexity of the terrain is making rescue efforts difficult, according to Caroline Holt, director of disaster, climate and crises for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Some affected areas were only reachable by helicopter, she said, adding that heavy machinery needed to clear rubble may be difficult to transport through such mountainous terrain.
– The quake’s epicenter was in al-Haouz province, a mountainous and rural area where rescue workers have struggled to get past fallen debris and through difficult terrain to reach victims. More than 1,000 people had died there, according to the Interior Ministry.
In Marrakesh, people described desperate evacuations as walls crumbled around them. Videos on social media showed Marrakesh’s largest minaret swaying as people below ran away.
Elsewhere in the city, residents shielded their mouths from the dusty air and reached out to each other for support as they navigated narrow alleyways in near-darkness.
About 19.3 million people were exposed to the earthquake, according to USGS data released Saturday morning.
Cellphone networks in the worst affected areas had stopped working, leaving family members across the country and around the world waiting anxiously for news.