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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tufts Arab Student Association calls for relief funds after fatal Moroccan earthquake

On Sept. 8, a powerful earthquake hit the Atlas region of Morocco leaving thousands dead.


A mosque damaged by the recent earthquake in Morocco is pictured.

Thousands of people perished from an 6.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the Atlas region of Morocco on the night of Sept. 8. The Tufts Arab Student Association responded by starting relief initiatives, calling for donations and raising awareness of the tragedy.

The earthquake reached as far as Marrakech city, which was 40 miles southwest from the epicenter, but most of the destruction was experienced by the small rural communities of the High Atlas mountain range.

Ali Slimi, co-president of the Arab Student Association, provided more context about the state of Morocco after the earthquake.

“These villages are quite hard to get to even when the roads are in good condition,” Slimi wrote in an email to the Daily. “And now that the earthquake has destroyed much of the transport infrastructure, relief services are having to resort to packing supplies on mules and donkeys and walking them across the mountains to get to these populations up in the mountains. … Morocco as a developing nation already experiences a much higher rate of poverty than we regularly come into contact with here in the US and that poverty has been severely exacerbated.

Sophomore Iman Boulouah, who grew up in Morocco and has family members who live in Agadir, one of the impacted cities, described how the community was affected.

“I got [the news] Saturday morning,” Boulouah said. “My mom called me that day, and she told me about what happened and how bad the situation actually was. At that time, she still wasn’t able to get in contact with my family, just because of the earthquake. A lot of the power was lost, so it was hard to connect.”

Many people in Morocco were displaced into the streets for nights and some were left homeless.

Dylan Vasey, assistant professor in the Tufts Department of Earth and Climate Sciences, explained that the Atlas Mountains formed millions of years ago from the collision of the African and the Eurasian tectonic plates. Massive rock movements have been ongoing since then along the faults, making earthquakes likely.

“Wherever you see mountains, that’s a record of past earthquakes,” Vasey explained.The Atlas mountains are an area that are actively forming their faults throughout them, so it’s very normal in a sense to expect that earthquakes would happen in this region.

According to Vasey, the Moroccan earthquake is about the same magnitude as California’s Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, which caused the double-decked Cypress Freeway to collapse.

Boulouah confirmed that the majority of the population was unprepared when the earthquake struck.

“A lot of people don’t really know the procedures to take during an earthquake,” Boulouah said. “Some actually don’t even know what it is, and so I don’t think the cities were prepared for it. People as well were not prepared.”

Vasey also stressed the need for preparation and improved infrastructure to protect against future natural disasters.

“Governments and individuals and organizations need to prepare for that possibility,” Vasey explained. “They need to mitigate risks, build buildings up to codes that can resist earthquakes, do whatever they can so that when something like this does happen, they’re prepared to respond to it.”

The Tufts Arab Student Association called for donations to help stranded families.

“If you claim to care about these parts of the world, show it by helping,” Slimi wrote. “Contribute to our fundraiser, or any organization that is putting resources towards relief efforts. … Actions speak louder than words. Contribute.”