SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Utah National Guard is heading to Morocco following the devastating earthquake that left over 1,300 people dead on Friday, Sept. 8, Governor Spencer Cox announced.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kingdom of Morocco in the aftermath of yesterday’s devastating earthquake,” Cox stated. “Later today, members of the Utah National Guard will leave to assist. Utah stands ready to help through our strong military ties with the Kingdom.”
The magnitude-6.8 quake, the biggest to hit the country in over 100 years, sent people fleeing their homes in terror and disbelief late Friday, according to the Associated Press. The quake reportedly brought down walls made from stone and masonry, covering whole communities with rubble.
Remote villages like those in the drought-stricken Ouargane Valley were largely cut off from the world when they lost electricity and cellphone service.
However, the deaths occurred mostly in Marrakech and five provinces near the epicenter, Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported. Another 1,832 people were injured — 1,220 critically — the ministry said.
The Associated Press stated that in an exceptional move, neighboring rival Algeria offered to open its airspace to allow eventual humanitarian aid or medical evacuation flights to travel to and from Morocco. Algeria reportedly closed the airspace when its government severed diplomatic ties with Morocco in 2021 over a series of issues. The countries have a decades-long dispute involving the territory of Western Sahara.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m. (22:11 GMT), with shaking that lasted several seconds. The U.S. agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later. The collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates occurred at a relatively shallow depth, which makes a quake more dangerous, the Associated Press said.
World leaders have reportedly offered to send in aid or rescue crews as condolences poured in from countries in Europe, the Middle East and the Group of 20 summit in India. The state of Utah has also joined in, executing the National Guard’s mission to provide mission-ready military forces to assist both state and federal authorities in times of emergency or war, according to its website.
“The Utah National Guard is made up of Utahns who are proud citizens and community servants who are ready at a moment’s notice to respond to our state and nation’s call. Thank you and your families for your service and dedication to our country,” Cox stated.