The earthquake that has killed nearly 2500 thousand people in Morocco has sparked an outpouring of solidarity around the world, with several countries and organizations offering Rabat their help.
Foreign leaders have expressed their condolences with many offering assistance, including Israel with which Morocco normalised relations in 2020.
Neighbour and regional rival Algeria announced it was suspending a two-year-old ban on all Moroccan flights through its airspace to enable aid deliveries and medical evacuations.
US President Joe Biden said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation” and “stands ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary to the Moroccan people”, said the American president.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressed “deep grief for the victims” and hope that “the Moroccan government and people will be able to overcome the impact of this disaster”.
For his part, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “extremely saddened by the loss of life”. “We are praying that all injured people are healthy soon. The entire world is with Morocco in this tough time and we are ready to give them all possible assistance.”
Pope Francis expressed “his profound solidarity with those who are touched in the flesh and heart by this tragedy”.
The 7.3-magnitude El Asnam earthquake in Algeria killed 2,500 people and left at least 300,000 homeless in 1980.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “shocked after the terrible earthquake”. “France stands ready to help with first aid”, he added on X (ex-Twitter) during his flight to the G20 summit taking place this weekend in New Delhi.
And on Saturday evening, the leaders of the 27 member countries of the European Union co-signed a letter to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, saying they were “in full solidarity” and “ready to help in any way you (the King, editor’s note) see fit”.
The head of the Italian government, Giorgia Meloni, regretted the “tragic toll of the earthquake” and reaffirmed Italy’s “willingness to support Morocco in this emergency situation”.
“All my solidarity and support to the people of Morocco after this terrible earthquake”, wrote the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, on X, while King Felipe VI said he was “devastated”. Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jose Manuel Albares, added that “Spain has offered Morocco both rescue teams and help with reconstruction”.
The United Kingdom is “ready to help” Morocco “in any way we can”, said British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. While Switzerland has offered to provide temporary shelters.
Spain on Sunday sent 56 rescuers and four search dogs to Morocco after receiving a formal request for help from Rabat.
An A400 military plane took off from a base in the northeastern city of Zaragoza with the team bound for Marrakesh to “help in the search and rescue of survivors of the devastating earthquake suffered in our neighbouring country,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
Spain is preparing to send a second plane with a rescue team run by the regional government of Madrid, Defence Minister Margarita Robles added during an interview with Spanish public television.
“We will send whatever is needed because everyone knows that these first hours are key, especially if there are people buried under rubble,” she added.
The rescue team which departed on Sunday belongs to Spain’s Military Emergencies Unit (UME), a body of the armed forces that was created to intervene quickly in emergency situations such as forest fires, floods and earthquakes.
They are equipped with tools to drill and cut reinforced concrete, as well as the means to detect toxic or explosive substances to ensure rescue teams work in safety, the defence ministry statement said.
UME teams have been deployed before to help in earthquake rescues in Ecuador, Haiti, Mexico, Nepal and most recently Turkey in February where they rescued six people, including a mother and two children.
The strongest-ever quake to hit Morocco has killed at least 2,500 people and injured over 2,000, many of them critically, according to the latest official figures.
Earlier on Sunday Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said Madrid would send aid to Morocco after receiving a formal request.
“It is a sign of Spanish solidarity and of the sense of friendship which unites the people of Spain with the people of Morocco,” he said during an interview with Catalunya Radio, adding he received a call from his Moroccan counterpart requesting the aid in the early hours of Sunday.
“It will be as much aid as Morocco needs, at first what we are setting in motion are search and rescue teams because it is urgent to try to find the greatest number of people alive to save them. When it is time for reconstruction, Spanish aid will also be present.”
Other countries, including the United States and France, have also pledged humanitarian aid but Morocco would first need to formally request assistance, a step required before foreign crews can deploy.