More than 48 hours after the historic earthquake that hit Morocco, more than 2,500 bodies were found in the rubble. This already very deadly toll risks increasing in the coming hours, or even the coming days. The race against time to find survivors is on more than ever. Volunteer rescuers and members of the armed forces are working on the ground to find and extract bodies from the rubble, particularly in villages in the province of Al-Haouz, the epicenter of the earthquake south of Marrakech.
“We can find people alive up to eight days after the disaster,” says Arnaud Fraisse, founder of Secouristes sans frontières. For this, rescuers are equipped with sophisticated equipment. The rescuers have an “infrared camera that slips into the gaps in the rubble to find a victim. Through this device, we can talk to her to find out if she is conscious,” he explains. Some teams are accompanied by a search dog. “If he feels life, we will focus on this specific place.”
“Sound listening” equipment is also essential. “We place it on a stone then if the sensor detects sound activity under the debris, we perforate the stone to help,” he continues.
However, the chances of finding survivors are slim because “survival zones under the debris are almost non-existent,” laments Arnaud Fraisse. “Moroccan buildings are built of earth and do not comply with anti-seismic standards. When the earth shakes, they collapse vertically and turn into dust. The trapped victims therefore hit the roof beams in the head or die from asphyxiation,” he explains.
His association, experienced in this type of earthquake, had already mobilized in Antioch after the earthquake in Turkey last February. “Unlike Morocco, Turkish buildings made of concrete collapse on their side, which therefore leaves more chance of survival,” compares Arnaud Fraisse.
For now, the Rescuers Without Borders teams are still in France and waiting for the green light to intervene. France does not have the right to send rescuers because Morocco has not requested international humanitarian aid.
Despite the ban, French volunteer rescue teams left on their own. Lyon volunteer firefighters from the Casc Appui association arrived in Marrakech around 1 a.m. on Sunday. They were quickly directed around fifty kilometers from the tourist capital, according to information relayed by the Rhône prefecture. Made up of four rescue and search specialists, a nurse and a specialist with his dog, the team whose departure was reported by the local press took on board around 300 kilos of equipment, according to the same source.
In Saint-Étienne, the PHF association, a specialist in civil protection, sent a team of eight people to Marrakech on Sunday afternoon - a doctor, two nurses and three rescuers - and equipment, by a commercial flight from Lyon. “We have chosen to send a team now to be as efficient as possible. Once there, we will make ourselves available to the local authorities,” Mathieu Beaugiraud, vice-president of the association, told AFP.
The earthquake that occurred late Friday evening, of magnitude 7 according to the Moroccan Center for Scientific and Technical Research (6.8 according to the American seismological service), is the most powerful to have ever been measured in Morocco.