Moroccan government steps up efforts to restore quake-hit World Heritage sites

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The Moroccan government is ramping up efforts to restore the quake-hit historic buildings and sites in Marrakesh dating back to the 12th century.

A devastating earthquake jolted Morocco on Sept. 8, killing 2,946 people while injuring 5,674 others as of 19:00 local time on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry data shows.

The earthquake that happened at 23:11 local time measured a magnitude of 6.8 and a focal depth of 18.5 kilometers, said the U.S. Geological Survey.

Crumbling walls, cracked fortifications, collapsed mosques and damaged palaces are just some of the results of the recent disaster.

“With several dynasties that have succeeded one another over the years, this city has impressive monuments, around 950 historic sites. This is a record. The earthquake southwest of Marrakesh damaged many monuments, 25 to 30 of them. The damage varies (in severity), from serious, to medium and finally insignificant,” said Jamal Abdel Mounaim, curator of Historical Monuments of Marrakesh.

The Moroccan official said restoration work could last up to two years in the most affected sites. He said the technical and very complex operation to restore the sites will not start so long as there is a risk of aftershocks.

“We need to put in place a strategy and a vision to face and limit risks before launching the restoration. We hope that the earthquake aftershocks will stop because it causes more damage,” said the curator.

Moroccan tourism experts said around 70 percent of those who visit the North African country experience cultural tourism in Marrakesh and many other cities.

“Every city in Morocco has historical monuments which tourists are looking for. This is the strength of the Moroccan tourist offer. Heritage and cultural sites enrich the destination. That’s why it’s important to preserve all sites,” said Zoubir Bouhout, Moroccan tourism expert.

The earthquake tore through several important historic structures in UNESCO World Heritage sites and towns in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Despite the huge damage caused by the natural disaster in Marrakesh, Morocco remains one of the most tourist-friendly countries in the world.

Moroccan authorities are assessing the damage to historic sites and monuments. UNESCO’s director said that the organization will support the North African country in its efforts to rebuild heritage landmarks damaged by the earthquake.