European Rescue Teams Disheartened as Morocco Limits International Aid Post-Earthquake

by Andrew Wright
Morocco Earthquake International Aid

An emergency alert about a devastating earthquake in Morocco was received in the dead of night. A team of nine French volunteers, equipped with search-and-rescue tools, including listening devices, were ready to assist in locating survivors buried in the debris.

However, the one element missing was official approval from Morocco to board a plane, which would have allowed them to arrive in the disaster-stricken region a little over 24 hours following the September 8 quake. The catastrophic event led to the deaths of over 2,900 individuals and left at least 5,530 injured across demolished villages and residential structures.

Arnaud Fraisse, the coordinator and founder of the humanitarian organization Rescuers Without Borders, lamented, “We never received the green light. Our team, which undergoes regular training for precisely such emergencies, is disheartened that they could not put their skills into action.”

European aid organizations have expressed their frustration over Morocco’s restricted approach to accepting international help, contrasting it with Turkey’s open call for aid after a disastrous earthquake in February. Turkey had swiftly acknowledged the gravity of the situation and welcomed aid from 90 countries, resulting in the rescue of hundreds of people.

Morocco, on the other hand, has been more selective, accepting governmental search-and-rescue teams only from Spain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, while declining further offers from countries such as the United States and France.

Logistical challenges partly explain Morocco’s cautious approach. Aid specialists have pointed out that a sudden influx of uncoordinated rescue teams could cause more harm than good. Additionally, reaching the affected areas in the Atlas Mountains posed logistical difficulties, as roads were either destroyed or obstructed by debris. The Moroccan government also recalls the disarray that followed international assistance after a similar event in 2004.

Moroccan Senator Lahcen Haddad, formerly the nation’s tourism minister, emphasized in an interview with Big Big News that the immediate focus should be on clearing routes and reaching survivors. “Numbers are not the issue here. Speed and efficiency are of the essence. Assistance, if required, will be solicited later,” he stated.

Caroline Holt, a representative of the International Federation of the Red Cross, concurred, explaining that the government is taking measured steps in accepting aid to avoid further chaos.

While Fraisse understands the complexities involved in handling an international response, he knows the value of time in life-saving missions. He recalls his team’s late arrival to a disaster scene in Turkey, despite their efforts being “extremely well-coordinated.” He also suspects that existing political tensions between France and Morocco played a role in the refusal of their offer for assistance.

Several other countries faced similar situations. Germany had also assembled a 50-member rescue team that was ultimately told to stand down. A 70-member Czech rescue team was similarly prepared but never deployed.

Patricia McIlreavy, CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, highlighted the challenges in coordinating an international response. “It’s easy to critique from the outside, but managing international aid is far from straightforward,” she remarked.

Contributions to this report were made by Big Big News journalists Glenn Gamboa in New York; Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey; Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin; Karel Janicek in Prague; and Sam Metz in Marrakech, Morocco.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Morocco Earthquake International Aid

What is the main subject of the article?

The article focuses on the limited acceptance of international aid by Morocco following a catastrophic earthquake on September 8. It examines the frustrations of European rescue teams who were prepared to offer assistance but were not given the green light by the Moroccan government.

Why are European rescue teams frustrated?

European rescue teams, particularly from France, are frustrated because they were prepared to deploy and assist with search-and-rescue missions in the aftermath of the earthquake, but were not granted permission by Morocco to do so.

How does Morocco’s approach to international aid differ from Turkey’s?

Morocco has taken a more selective approach in accepting international aid, only welcoming governmental search-and-rescue teams from a few countries. In contrast, Turkey, after experiencing a devastating earthquake earlier in the year, swiftly called for international help and received aid from 90 countries.

What are the logistical reasons behind Morocco’s limited acceptance of aid?

Logistical challenges include the difficulty in coordinating a large influx of international rescue teams, which could potentially be more hindrance than help. Additionally, reaching the affected areas in the Atlas Mountains poses logistical difficulties due to destroyed or obstructed roads.

Are political factors also involved in Morocco’s decision?

The article suggests that political tensions may have played a role in Morocco’s decision to limit international aid, particularly from France. However, the article does not provide definitive evidence to support this claim.

What does the Moroccan government say is its immediate priority?

According to Moroccan Senator Lahcen Haddad, the immediate focus should be on clearing routes and reaching survivors, emphasizing that the need for speed and efficiency outweighs the need for a large number of rescue teams.

How do experts view Morocco’s handling of the situation?

Some experts, including representatives from the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, believe that Morocco is taking careful and measured steps in its handling of international aid to avoid exacerbating an already chaotic situation.

What happened to the rescue teams from other countries like Germany and the Czech Republic?

Like the French team, rescue teams from Germany and the Czech Republic were assembled and ready to deploy but were ultimately told to stand down due to the lack of official approval from the Moroccan government.

More about Morocco Earthquake International Aid

  • Earthquake Preparedness Guidelines
  • Overview of Morocco’s Disaster Response Plan
  • Turkey’s Approach to International Aid in Natural Disasters
  • Challenges of Coordinating International Aid in Emergency Situations
  • The Role of Political Tensions in International Aid
  • Analysis of the September 8 Earthquake in Morocco
  • The International Federation of the Red Cross on Disaster Management
  • Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s Guidelines on Effective Giving

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Lena_Explorer September 12, 2023 - 11:13 pm

Thought provoking! would love to read more on how countries can better prepare and collaborate for natural disasters in the future.

JohnDoe82 September 13, 2023 - 12:04 am

Wow, this really opened my eyes. Can’t believe Morocco didn’t take all the help they could get. lives are at stake here…

SarahInFinance September 13, 2023 - 3:15 am

Intriguing read. Makes you think about all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into these rescue operations. It’s not just about throwing resources.

CarlaM September 13, 2023 - 5:06 am

Why would a country refuse help in such dire times? don’t get it.

Mike_the_Analyst September 13, 2023 - 5:58 am

Good article but it could dig deeper into the political tensions. There’s definitely more to the story there, just sayin.

AnitaWrites September 13, 2023 - 11:43 am

Quality piece. Well balanced with perspectives from experts and rescue teams. Makes the issue multi-dimensional.

TechieTom September 13, 2023 - 11:47 am

Logistical challenges can be a nightmare. People don’t realize it’s not just about manpower but also about effective coordination. Hats off to the experts who manage these crises.

SamPolitics September 13, 2023 - 3:51 pm

I’m left wondering how much of this was really about logistics and how much was politics? The line seems blurred.


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