Desperate doctors in Morocco overwhelmed by needs of earthquake survivors

Unicef says more 100,000 children have been affected by the magnitude-6.8 tremor

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Relief workers and doctors in Morocco are desperately trying to respond to the needs of survivors of Friday’s earthquake.

At least 2,862 people were killed and more than 2,500 were injured in the quake, according to an official toll published late on Monday.

Doctors are facing a high number of patients but have few resources to treat them. Patients have reportedly been moved outside medical centres and into tents over the threats posed by aftershocks.

In Amizmiz, a small town about 55km south of Marrakesh, a hospital caring for Moroccans injured in the earthquake is operating out of a tent pitched on asphalt under the blazing sun, and it has only about a dozen beds.

As soon as a bed becomes free, it is filled again, as more and more patients keep coming in from villages at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains.

The hospital can handle basic medical care. But doctors “can't treat everything here”, ophthalmologist Doha Hamidallah told AFP.

“We handle primary treatment such as sutures and fractures. But more serious cases are sent to Marrakesh University Hospital”, about 50km away, she said.

The National reports from earthquake-hit Marrakesh

The National reports from earthquake-hit Marrakesh

Tired and overwhelmed nurses deal with the flow of new patients arriving in private, public or military ambulances.

Others distribute medicine to those who need it, mostly people with diabetes.

“We also have to treat patients who were not injured directly by the quake, but who've been unable to get their medicine,” Christophe, a carer with the Moroccan Red Crescent, told AFP.

The first hours after the quake were difficult for the small hospital to handle.

“In terms of co-ordination, we could only go with the flow,” said Dr Hamidallah.

Moroccan rescuers, backed by teams from Spain, Britain, Qatar and the UAE, are now up against the clock.

“The big difficulty is in zones remote and difficult to access, like here, but the injured are choppered out,” Annika Coll, who leads the Spanish team, told AFP in the disaster-stricken community of Talat Nyacoub.

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, said early on Tuesday that nearly 100,000 children have been impacted by the powerful earthquake.

The magnitude-6.8 quake struck just after 11pm on Friday, at a time when most children and families will have been at home asleep.

Children represent almost a third of the Moroccan population, but Unicef does not have an exact number of those killed and injured.

Updated: September 12, 2023, 10:25 AM