What has the earthquake in Morocco exposed?

In Morocco at least 2,100 people have died in a major earthquake with its epicentre in the Atlas Mountains and its aftershocks. The search among the rubble continues. Only certain countries have been allowed to help with the rescue efforts so far — in accordance with a "careful assessment of the needs" in affected areas, according to the Ministry of the Interior in Rabat.

El Mundo (ES) /

A king with his back to the people

El Mundo criticises the behaviour of King Mohammed VI:

“The first words addressed by the royal family to the population did not come until eight o’clock on Saturday evening [18 hours after the quake] in the form of a communiqué whose coldness contrasts sharply with the warm expressions of condolence by leaders from all over the world. ... Mohammed VI rejected Paris’s offer of aid and has so far given the green light only to Spain, the UK, the Emirates and Qatar. ... Mohammed VI, 59 years old and in poor health, almost spends more time outside Morocco than in the country. ... The earthquake makes him look like a head of state with his back to the people, which only deepens the crisis of the Alawi monarchy and raises questions about its future.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

After the quake comes politics

The reaction to natural disasters often reveals the consequences of political changes, the Süddeutsche Zeitung notes:

“In the case of Morocco, much revolves around Western Sahara, Spain’s former colony, which has been under Moroccan control since 1975. Spain, which only recently sided with Moroccoon the Western Sahara issue, has sent rescue workers. ... Morocco’s neighbour Algeria, on the other hand, supports the Sahrawi people, the inhabitants of Western Sahara, in their struggle for sovereignty — and hesitated before sending a message of condolence after the earthquake. In the meantime at least it has opened its airspace for relief flights. In a best case scenario, this can be a political consequence of natural disasters: that hostile states move closer again.”

Sonja Zekri
TSF (PT) /

Modern Morocco apparently standing firm

Morocco-based journalist Raul M. Braga Pires notes in TSF that in contrast to the assessment after the recent earthquake in Turkey, the analysis of the earthquake damage in Morroco does not point to serious mistakes:

“The images and reports allow us to conclude that this is not the case, confirming once again the so-called ‘Moroccan exception’ that set the kingdom apart during the Arab Spring, when it stood in contrast to the general chaos that prevailed in the region from Tripoli to Sanaa. ... The glass is half full, meaning that although the traditional stone houses of the rural areas collapsed, destroying centuries-old structures and costing the lives of the people who sought refuge there, the cities withstood the tremors.”

Raul M. Braga Pires
Libération (FR) /

The criticism will come

After the initial wave of solidarity, the focus will turn to the mistakes that have been made, Libération predicts:

“Collection points for basic necessities and blood donations were set up very quickly in all or almost all cities in the kingdom. Well-known personalities — athletes, actors, comedians — immediately lent their support, sometimes financially. Even the long-time enemy Algeria spontaneously opened its airspace to facilitate the relief efforts. But sooner or later, it will be time to take stock, and those responsible will have to take their share of the blame for the slowness of the rescue efforts or the failure to comply with earthquake-proof standards in some places.”

Alexandra Schwartzbrod