25 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — Two Dutch Hercules transport planes carrying rescue workers and sniffer dogs left Eindhoven on Wednesday morning to help save victims of the Moroccan earthquake as the death toll rose sharply overnight.
A Defence Ministry spokesman said the rescue dogs, material and personnel are members of the recently-established Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR), news agency ANP reported.
The team is a Dutch support unit that can be deployed in times of disaster both domestically and internationally. It comes under the supervision of the Interior Ministry.
The death toll from the earthquake in Morocco rose overnight to at least 564 and about 300 people are reported injured. Thousands of survivors spent the night outside, fearing aftershocks.
The quake measured between 6.1 and 6.5 on the Richter scale and hit north-eastern Morocco near the coastal town of Al Hoceima on Tuesday morning. The epicentre was located in the Gibraltar Strait.
France is deploying rescue workers, while both the United Nations and the international Red Cross remain on standby. The US, Belgium, Germany, Portugal and Spain have also offered assistance, BBC reported.
The Dutch Moroccan community in Rotterdam has expressed shock at the quake and many city residents have lost family members or friends in the tragedy, a Rotterdam North Council member Ahmed Harika said.
Most of the harbour city’s Moroccan residents who originated from the affected areas of the North African nation live in Rotterdam North. Rotterdam has 34,000 Moroccan residents.
Scanty reports filtered through to the Moroccan community on Tuesday morning about the quake, but the immigrant community became aware of the fate of their loved ones later in the day via mobile phone.
The affected area is mountainous terrain and a rescue operation involving the army and the Red Crescent is under way, but emergency workers are having difficulty reaching the remote villages.
On the initiative of Rotterdam municipal councillor Brahim Bourzik, Moroccan organisations will meet on Sunday to discuss the situation and mosques will arrange a collection of donations.
The chairman of the Moroccan and Tunisian co-operative association (SMT), Said Bouddouft said several organisations will open a bank account to gather donations. People can also donate clothes and medicine to assist the victims of the earthquake.
Meanwhile, the Dutch embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat has not yet received any indication that Dutch nationals are among the casualties.
Moroccan authorities are encountering difficulties in identifying the victims, while help organisation Doctors Without Borders — which is also working in the area — has not yet reported Dutch casualties.
The embassy has made contact with the Rotterdam Council and the Dutch city’s Moroccan community, newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Wednesday.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Dutch Red Cross had not yet received a request to offer assistance to Morocco. Such a request must come from the international Red Cross, which had at last count EUR 47,000 in emergency funds.
Morocco’s worst earthquake disaster struck in 1960, near the southern city of Agadir, killing about 12,000. Tuesday’s quake was the worst in 10 years, coming after a 1994 quake in the same region.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news