Morocco earthquake: According to a French NGO, 'the authorities could have accepted a little more help' (2024)

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Around a hundred NGOs have offered to help Morocco in the wake of the earthquake that hit the country on Friday night. The reason why so few offers have been accepted is mainly due to diplomatic and logistical reasons, says Secouristes Sans Frontières.

Le Monde

Published on September 13, 2023, at 2:19 pm (Paris)

3 min read

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Why have so many offers of help gone unheeded? Despite the scale of the destruction and the still provisional death toll approaching 3,000 from the earthquake in Morocco on the night of Friday, September 8, only a few teams have been authorized to take part in the relief effort. Many others are still awaiting approval from Rabat.

"The Moroccan authorities are in the process of identifying local needs. At the embassy, they have asked us to answer specific questions, in particular about the human and material potential we are able to contribute. We have replied and are waiting for their green light," Dominique Angeloni, head of the Secouristes Sans Frontières team preparing to leave, told Le Monde on Sunday. The French NGO finally gave up the next day. Arnaud Fraisse, its founder and head of communications, explains why.

Read more Subscribers only Morrocan officials irritated over aid controversies: 'Frankly, France, who do you take us for?'

Why did you decide not to intervene in Morocco?

Arnaud Fraisse: We informed the Moroccan embassy last night that we were abandoning our proposal, because our role is to intervene in extreme emergency situations to find survivors, and we feel that after four days, with this type of habitat and earthquake, there is little chance of finding any.

Our mission is not to dig out lifeless bodies, which means respecting local habits, customs and beliefs. Moroccan rescue workers do this much better than we do. So we prefer to leave it to them. Our role is to search for people buried alive, with dogs and equipment. It really hurts because we know that we could have saved lives in the first 48 hours.

Why were you not given permission to play this role?

There are certainly many factors. I don't know what reason is the most plausible. We have certainly paid the price for the quarrel between France and Morocco. NGOs are often confronted with this kind of situation. The country can either appeal for international humanitarian aid, as was the case in Turkey after the February earthquake, or we go through the diplomatic channel by making a proposal to the embassy of the country concerned, which is free to accept or reject it. At the same time, we contact the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to inform them of our position in principle.

Many other groups found themselves in the same situation as us. Around a hundred rescue teams have offered to help, but the Moroccan authorities have made their choice. It's a shame, but we have to accept it.

Are you often confronted with this kind of situation?

We have been turned down on occasion, for example after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. Yerevan refused to accept help from NGOs, but accepted support from governments. As a result, Sécurité Civile, the French civil defense agency was able to send a contingent. Conversely, after the 1993 earthquake in Latur, in India, the authorities there accepted help from us, but not from Sécurité Civile.

During the May 2003 earthquake in Boumerdès, Algeria, all the rescue teams present were dismissed after three days and asked to leave the country quickly. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika did not want us to witness the people's discontent. We are somewhat dependent on the diplomatic situation. Unfortunately, this is something we have to accept.

Read more Subscribers only Morocco earthquake: Near the epicenter in Amizmiz, 'no one has come to help us yet'

In the case of Morocco, do you think your help was necessary?

We are told that some villages haven't seen any rescue teams yet. I am not able to verify this. The needs are probably covered by the teams that have been accepted. As terrible as it is, this earthquake is not on the scale of the one that killed over 50,000 people in Turkey this winter.

The Moroccan authorities probably wanted to avoid an emergency response bottleneck like the one they experienced during the Al Hoceima earthquake on the night of February 23, 2004.

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If all the teams that submitted applications to the United Nations had been accepted, between 3,000 to 3,500 people would have had to get on site overnight, and it is clear that the Marrakech airport doesn't have the capacity to handle so many planes so quickly. A lot of trucks would also have been needed to get all those rescue workers to the affected villages, which are a three-hour drive from Marrakech. It's obviously very complicated, but I think the Moroccan authorities could have accepted a little more help from European countries, in the hours following the earthquake.

Le Monde

Translation of an original article published in French on; the publisher may only be liable for the French version.

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Morocco earthquake: According to a French NGO, 'the authorities could have accepted a little more help' (2024)


Morocco earthquake: According to a French NGO, 'the authorities could have accepted a little more help'? ›

Morocco earthquake: According to a French NGO, 'the authorities could have accepted a little more help' Around a hundred NGOs have offered to help Morocco in the wake of the earthquake that hit the country on Friday night.

Who helped the Morocco earthquake? ›

Moroccan Red Crescent teams provided physical and mental health care support, including transportation to hospitals for people with injuries. UN OCHA said, “His Majesty King Mohammed VI has instructed his government to expeditiously continue field relief efforts and provide care to the victims of the earthquake.

Who is Morocco accepting aid from? ›

In a statement, the Ministry of Interior asserted that they are “continuing to evaluate needs and respond in compliance with international standards;” as such, Morocco has accepted foreign aid from countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom but has refused the requests for aid from the U.S. and France.

Why doesn't Morocco accept help from France? ›

But the French rescuers were still too late — sometimes by agonizing margins — to recover survivors. Some dead bodies they found were still warm, Fraisse recalled. He suspects that political tensions between France and Morocco are another reason why his team's offer wasn't acted upon.

Which countries helped Morocco during the earthquake? ›

Only search-and-rescue teams from the United Kingdom (UK), Qatar, Spain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been allowed to operate on the ground by the Moroccan authorities, despite numerous offers from governments worldwide.

How did Morocco respond to the earthquake? ›

Shortly after the earthquake, Moroccan King Mohammed VI convened an emergency meeting and ordered his military forces to break the isolation of remote villages in dire need of food, shelter, and medical attention.

How can we help the Morocco earthquake? ›

Global Giving. GlobalGiving has asked for donations to its Morocco Earthquake Relief Fund to help survivors with emergency relief, as well as long-term support. The donations will provide food, clean water, medicine and shelter to survivors, GlobalGiving said. Visit here to donate to GlobalGiving.

Did Morocco refuse help from the earthquake? ›

Morocco's government faced criticism from some citizens in the aftermath of the earthquake after it turned down some offers of international aid, despite thousands desperately needing urgent assistance. "I think it is really an error [to insist on] sovereignty and national pride.

Is Algeria helping Morocco after the earthquake? ›

Despite the long-lasting diplomatic disputes between Algeria and Morocco, both the Algerian government and its people have offered the latter aid and solidarity post-quake.

Is Morocco an ally of USA? ›

Morocco is one of America's oldest friends in the Middle East and North Africa and is recognized today as a major non-NATO ally.

Why won't Morocco take help from the USA? ›

It's a sovereign Moroccan decision and it's up to them to decide," she said. Morocco says it wants to maintain control and does not want to risk a potentially chaotic situation with dozens of countries and organisations coming in to help.

Does Morocco belong to France? ›

Morocco formally achieved its independence from France on March 2, 1956.

Does France still control Morocco? ›

Moroccans celebrate November 18 as Independence Day in commemoration of their Sultan's return from exile in 1955 and Morocco's transition from French protectorate to autonomous nation the following year.

Which country is in the greatest danger of having earthquakes? ›

For which country do we locate the most earthquakes? Japan. The whole country is in a very active seismic area, and they have the densest seismic network in the world, so they are able to record many earthquakes.

Is Morocco threatened by earthquake? ›

The analysis of the faults present in this area suggests that future earthquakes could have maximum magnitudes that may exceed magnitude 7 (3). However, this area it is not prone to earthquakes and there is no equivalent earthquake information for the epicentre region.

What are the humanitarian needs of earthquakes in Morocco? ›

Critical humanitarian needs resulting from the earthquakes included food, psychosocial support, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and supplies, according to relief actors.

Which four countries are helping Morocco? ›

The choice of aid from four countries – UK, Spain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – combines technical criteria with geopolitical considerations.

Who helped during the 2011 tsunami? ›

Several countries, including Australia, China, India, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States, sent search-and-rescue teams, and dozens of other countries and major international relief organizations such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent pledged financial and material support to Japan.

Has Morocco recovered from the earthquake? ›

In the medina beloved by tourists, signs of recovery lie side-by-side with lasting damage.

Why is Morocco refusing US aid? ›

It's a sovereign Moroccan decision and it's up to them to decide," she said. Morocco says it wants to maintain control and does not want to risk a potentially chaotic situation with dozens of countries and organisations coming in to help.


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