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Morocco Earthquake: Death toll rises to more than 1,000

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Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in decades has killed over 1,000 people, authorities said Saturday, causing widespread damage and sending terrified residents and tourists scrambling to safety in the middle of the night.

The 6.8-magnitude quake struck a mountainous area 72 kilometres (45 miles) southwest of tourist hotspot Marrakesh at 11:11 pm (2211 GMT) Friday, the US Geological Survey reported.

Strong tremors were also felt in the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira.

“I was nearly asleep when I heard the doors and the shutters banging,” said Ghannou Najem, a Casablanca resident in her 80s who was visiting Marrakesh when the quake hit.

“I went outside in a panic. I thought I was going to die alone.”

It is the strongest-ever quake to hit the North African kingdom, and one expert described it as the region’s “biggest in more than 120 years”.

“Where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough… so many collapse, resulting in high casualties,” said Bill McGuire, professor emeritus at Britain’s University College London.

Updated interior ministry figures on Saturday showed the quake killed at least 1,037 people, the vast majority in Al-Haouz, the epicentre, and Taroudant provinces.

Another 1,204 people were injured, including 721 in a critical condition, the ministry said.

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The ministry also recorded deaths in Ouarzazate, Chichaoua, Azilal and Youssoufia provinces, as well as in Marrakesh, Agadir and the Casablanca area.

Unbearable’ screams

Faisal Badour, an engineer, said he felt the quake three times in his building in Marrakesh.

“There are families who are still sleeping outside because we were so scared of the force of this earthquake,” he said. “The screaming and crying was unbearable.”

In Moulay Brahim village, in the mountains of Al-Haouz province near the quake’s epicentre, rescuers were searching for survivors in the rubble of collapsed houses, AFP correspondents reported.

On a nearby hill, residents began digging graves for the victims, the correspondents said.

Frenchman Michael Bizet, 43, who owns three traditional riad houses in Marrakesh’s old town, told AFP that he was in bed when the quake struck.

“I thought my bed was going to fly away. I went out into the street half-naked and immediately went to see my riads. It was total chaos, a real catastrophe, madness,” he said.

Footage on social media showed part of a minaret collapsed on Jemaa el-Fna square in the historic city.

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An AFP correspondent saw hundreds of people flocking to the square to spend the night for fear of aftershocks, some with blankets while others slept on the ground.

Mimi Theobold, 25, a tourist from England, said she was with friends on a restaurant terrace when the tables began shaking and plates went flying.

Houda Outassaf, a local resident, said she was “still in shock” after feeling the earth shake beneath her feet — and losing relatives.

“I have at least 10 members of my family who died… I can hardly believe it, as I was with them no more than two days ago,” she said.

The interior ministry said authorities have “mobilised all the necessary resources to intervene and help the affected areas”.

The regional blood transfusion centre in Marrakesh called on residents to donate blood for those injured.

The army has set up a field hospital in Moulay Brahim and deployed “significant human and logistical resources” to support search and rescue efforts in Al-Haouz, state news agency MAP said.

Significant damage likely

“We heard screams at the time of the tremor,” a resident of Essaouira, 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of Marrakesh, told AFP. “Pieces of facades have fallen.”

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The USGS PAGER system, which provides preliminary assessments on the impact of earthquakes, issued a “red alert” for economic losses, saying extensive damage is probable.

Foreign leaders expressed their condolences and many offered assistance, including Israel with which Morocco normalised relations in 2020.

US President Joe Biden said in a statement he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation”.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressed “deep grief for the victims” and hope that “the Moroccan government and people will be able to overcome the impact of this disaster”, according to Beijing’s state media.

Pope Francis expressed “his profound solidarity with those who are touched in the flesh and heart by this tragedy”.

The earthquake was also felt in neighbouring Algeria, where the Algerian Civil Defence said it had not caused any damage or casualties.

In 2004, at least 628 people were killed and 926 injured when a quake hit Al Hoceima in northeastern Morocco, and in 1960 a magnitude 6.7 quake in Agadir killed more than 12,000.

The 7.3-magnitude El Asnam earthquake in Algeria killed 2,500 people and left at least 300,000 homeless in 1980.

 

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Why I killed rival bandits’ kingpin – Notorious bandit Turji

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Bello Turji, leader of a group of outlaws operating in northern Nigeria, has blamed Minister of Defence (State), Bello Matawalle, of not handling banditry effectively when he was governor of Zamfara State.

 

During his time as governor, Matawalle had rolled out an amnesty programme to bandits, describing dialogue as best option to tackle banditry.

 

He, however, later withdrew the amnesty, saying the bandits failed to embrace the peace initiative his government offered them.

 

In a video released on social media, Turji linked the escalation of banditry in Zamfara and other Northwestern states to the policies mapped out by Matawalle when he was governor.

 

“Any person living in Shinkafi, Zurmi, and Isa (Sokoto State) cannot deny this claim. There is a particular group of bandits whom the former governor pampered. I chased the group from Shinkafi, I killed their leader, Dudu, for peace to reign in Shinkafi. The group had 200 arms, but the governor later hosted them (Dudu’s boys) at the Government House.

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“But the government failed to ask the group to surrender their weapons. Another group led by Bashari Maniya has over 300 guns.”

Turji claimed that he had seized 30 guns from a bandits group led by one Bashari Maniya, adding that the group never surrendered their weapons to the government.

In the video, Turji also alleged that some leaders of the bandits’ groups who were part of the peace deal initiated by the Matawalle administration had relocated to Sokoto after arming their boys to continue kidnapping people for ransom.

 

“Ali is a boy to Kabiru Maniya, and he is responsible for attacks in Tangaza axis. Both Bashiri and Kabiru are residing in the Sokoto metropolis, enjoying their lives. One other person, Buhari, is also in Sokoto town enjoying himself.

“Three weeks ago, a younger brother of Buhari was apprehended with guns in the Sokoto metropolis. Let anyone come out and deny this. I can come forward with video evidence where Kabiru was seen firing machine guns.

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“The question now is, where are the machine guns after they claimed that they have embraced peace and settled in Sokoto town? Who did he give the machine guns? Let the government explain this to Nigerians, who are killing the people. Let them stop blaming Bello Turji for the killings and kidnapping.

 

“People that are being kidnapped in Sokoto metropolis and taken to the back of Achida and Goronyo, who is responsible for the kidnapping? Is that also Bello Turji? Who is living in peace in Shinkafi?”

 

Efforts to reach Matawalle for reaction failed as of the time of filing this report.

 

Multiple calls made to Henshaw Ogubike, a spokesperson of the Defence Ministry, rang out.

 

Ogbuike, however, sent a text message, asking our reporter to reach him via text. He had not responded to the message sent as of the time of filing this report.

 

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Previously, Matawalle denied any link to the bandits and maintained that his government did its best to address the security challenges in Zamfara when he was in power.

 

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NDLEA arrests one-legged man with six bags of cannabis

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Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have arrested a 48-year-old one-legged man, Amadu Garba, at his house in Yawuri town, Kebbi State, with six bags of cannabis weighing 67 kg.

 

Garba was arrested on July 16th.

 

On the same day, NDLEA operatives intercepted a male Beninese passenger, Orobi Adoubi Amen, at the Lagos airport.

The suspect, travelling to Dubai via Accra, Ghana, on an Air Peace Airline flight and a connecting Emirates Airline flight to Dubai, was found with eight parcels of Loud, a synthetic strain of cannabis, weighing 2.10 kg.

 

The parcels were concealed in ladies’ native dresses within his bag. Amen claimed he was given the consignment for a fee of N600,000 upon successful delivery in Dubai.

 

The Director of Media and Advocacy of the NDLEA, Mr. Femi Babafemi, provided these updates in a statement on Sunday. NDLEA operatives have reported multiple arrests and drug seizures across various locations in Nigeria.

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Babafemi disclosed that on July 14th, during a 100% search of a container marked MSDU 5656394 from Canada at Tincan Port in Lagos, 4.5 kg of a psychoactive substance was recovered from the door panels and boot of an imported Toyota RAV 4 vehicle.

 

Two suspects, Dada Kole and Alaba Oladewusi, were arrested in connection with this seizure.

In Abuja, two suspects, 60-year-old Ademola Elusakin and 34-year-old Nuhu Friday Adamu, were arrested on July 15th with 30.0 kg of the same substance along the Kwali-Gwagwalada-Abuja expressway.

 

They were travelling from Lagos to Nasarawa State. Elusakin claimed he procured the consignment from Ghana via Lagos and intended to supply it to illegal miners in Nasarawa State.

 

In Plateau state, a raid on the storehouse of a notorious drug dealer, Choji Gyang (aka Pararam), who is currently at large, led to the recovery of 34 bags of cannabis weighing 312 kg. The dealer’s manager, Kelvin Onwutalu, was arrested.

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In Osogbo, Osun State, two suspects, Ifabiyi Johnson and Adeleke Musiliu, were arrested on Friday with different strains of cannabis sativa weighing 30.4 kg during a raid.

 

Acting on credible intelligence, NDLEA operatives, backed by soldiers, raided a mechanic workshop opposite Benin Garage, Akure, Ondo State, and recovered a white Toyota Hilux Van with registration number EE 328 EKY loaded with 652 parcels of cannabis weighing 685 kg.

 

In Nasarawa State, 38 kg of the same substance and a locally made AK-47 rifle were recovered from the home of a suspect, Christopher Ombugadu, in Akwanga during a raid on July 14th.

 

Additionally, NDLEA Commands and formations across the country continued their War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) sensitization activities in schools, worship centres, workplaces, and communities over the past week.

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Minimum wage: N70,000 can only buy one bag of rice – Ndume

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NDUME

 

Senator Ali Ndume, lawmaker representing Borno South, is obviously not done with his criticism of President Bola Tinubu.

 

His criticism of the president had led to his removal as Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate.

 

His party had also asked him to quit and join an opposition party of his choice.

 

The lawmaker had accepted his removal in good fate, vowing not to stop telling the truth to power.

 

During an interactive session with journalists, Ndume was asked to comment on the N70,000 minimum wage which Tinubu convinced labour to accept.

 

“People are suffering, people are angry, people are not happy. I am happy that yesterday, the president agreed with NLC to increase the salary to N70,000, which is a good move, but it takes more than that because, realistically, that is like a bag of rice, money that will buy a bag of rice or cover the cost of a bag of rice.”

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“So, I call on the president to still open up and listen to the people,” the lawmaker said.

 

Earlier, the lawmaker had described his action as patriotic, advising President Tinubu to listen to the cries of Nigerians and immediately address the concerned areas.

 

“I insist it is unpatriotic to stand by the president in whichever or whatever he does. It is patriotic to speak the truth not only to the president but also to anybody, for that matter. It is unpatriotic not to speak the truth to power or anybody and I still stand by that. In doing so, it is also known that God is always with the person that speaks the truth.

“So, I know that I am not wrong. The people are not wrong by speaking the truth and standing by the truth, and I pray that the president, who is now – I expect that the message has gotten to him – to look at what I have said and take appropriate measures to eliminate the sufferings of the people.”

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