Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 13, 2023



Morocco Earthquake

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (15:55): On behalf of the Hon. C.M. Scriven, I move:

That this council—

1. Notes the devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake that has struck central Morocco, 11.11pm local time on Friday 8 September, killing thousands of people, injuring similar numbers, and causing severe destruction across the country;

2. Acknowledges the critical work of rescue crews that have desperately searched for survivors in the immediate aftermath, as well as health workers and first-aid providers who are providing the immediate health response;

3. Notes the ongoing impact and displacement that will face many Moroccan people following the earthquake;

4. Acknowledges the impact this earthquake will have on the small but growing South Australian Moroccan community and stands with our Moroccan community, especially those who have family and friends in affected areas; and

5. Extends its condolences to the people of Morocco and their families and friends here and abroad.

I rise today to convey sincere condolences to the global Moroccan community in the wake of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country at 11.11pm local time on Friday 8 September. The epicentre was located in Al Haouz in the High Atlas mountain range near Marrakesh. Shocks were felt in Casablanca, Rabat, Fez and neighbouring towns, causing widespread panic among the impacted population.

It is the biggest earthquake in Morocco in over a century. The Moroccan government has assessed that over 300,000 people have now been displaced by the earthquake or are now homeless. Media are reporting that at least 2,680 people have so far died and another 2,500 have been injured. These statistics will obviously increase as time goes on.

Witnessing the media reports of the devastation has been harrowing. Whole families have been killed, children orphaned, families made homeless, villages destroyed and historic buildings lost forever. I must say, looking at some of these media reports, it is quite sad to see that help has taken so long to get to these villages to help the people. It is pretty sad to see people, everyday citizens, digging in the buildings to try to uncover their loved ones—most of the time, when they are found, they are deceased. Our hearts are with the Moroccan people and those immediately affected.

The fact that much of the housing and buildings in the rural areas are typically made of mud bricks has complicated the situation immensely. The immediate impacts are often not what we see the most, but there are going to be long-term consequences that can impact those affected for years to come. We know that the aftershocks will continue to cause havoc in the area, which will potentially cause additional damage. Rebuilding will take a lot of time and there is going to be a significant proportion who will be displaced. We also cannot forget the emotional toll this earthquake will have on the community.

In these moments of despair, there are also moments of hope and small moments of joy when loved ones have been found and reunited with their families. This is an opportune time to recognise the rescue crews, first responders and health providers who are working around the clock in such difficult circumstances and putting their own lives at risk.

From an Australian perspective, at this stage the Australian government is not aware of any Australian casualties or hospitalisations. While the Australian government has not received a specific request from Morocco for assistance, it is my understanding that they are ready to consider any such request in the future. Australia already contributes to the International Federation of Red Cross Disaster Relief Emergency Fund. The fund has a ready released one million Swiss francs to assist the response of the local Moroccan Red Cross Society.

South Australia is home to a relatively small but growing Moroccan community. The 2021 Census reported only 111 Moroccan-born people in South Australia, up from 80 reported in 2016 and 58 in 2011. I want to convey our thoughts to our community here, especially anyone whose friends or loved ones have been impacted by these tragic events. I can only imagine the worry and concern that our Moroccan community is facing with loved ones impacted or simply seeing their fellow Moroccans go through such tragic circumstances.

It was only a few weeks ago that we were celebrating together with the Moroccan women's national football team, who debuted at the FIFA Women's World Cup this year, the first country in the Arab world to do so since the competition was established in 1991. At the games played in Adelaide, and throughout the tournament, crowd support for Morocco was strong and the passionate community spirit was clear for all to see.

All South Australians stand with Morocco in the wake of the devastating earthquake, and our thoughts remain with our wider Australian Moroccan community at this time.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. N.J. Centofanti.