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Morocco sets aside nearly $12bn for quake recovery

Quake-hit Atlas mountain region was a bright spot for Morocco's vital tourism industry
Moroccan King Mohammed VI chairs a working session on earthquake response at the Royal Palace in Rabat, on 14 September 2023 (AFP)

Morocco plans to spend more than $11bn for reconstruction after an earthquake hit its Atlas mountain region, killing more than 2,900 people and injuring thousands more.

The funds would be used to "rehouse affected people, reconstruct homes and restore infrastructure", said the statement published at the end of a meeting chaired by King Mohammed VI on Wednesday. 

The government said the funds would help 4.2 million inhabitants affected by the quake over a period of five years.

The earthquake razed thousands of homes in central Morocco, including the High Atlas mountain range, forcing families to sleep out in the open with winter around the corner.

Rural communities, which are accustomed to traditional lifestyles and are largely detached from modern ways of living, were some of the hardest hit, particularly as their homes were simple in design. Many crumbled as soon as the earthquake struck, Middle East Eye previously reported.

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The worst-hit areas are the provinces of Al Haouz; Chichaoua; Taroudant; Marrakech; Ouarzazate; and Azizlal.

Morocco’s Atlas mountain region has become a hub for adventure travel and hiking. Its ancient mud-brick villages are a big draw for visitors. The kingdom has invested heavily in tourism. This year tourist arrivals were up by 92 percent compared with the same period of 2022.

The US Geological Survey recently estimated that the quake could wipe out eight percent of Morocco’s gross domestic product.

The announcement comes as some have questioned Morocco’s response to the quake. Middle East Eye previously reported how Rabat kept UN disaster response teams waiting in the early aftermath of the quake. Morocco also accepted limited foreign aid, stalling on offers of aid from France, its former coloniser.

The North African country is ruled by King Mohammed VI. The 60-year-old monarch has cultivated a more subdued appearance in public compared to other Arab rulers, but he has also been criticised for extended stays outside of the kingdom and opaque decision-making.

Last week King Mohammed VI visited quake survivors at a hospital in Marrakech, posing for photos, donating blood and kissing patients, in a show of solidarity.

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