A massive earthquake had hit Morocco. French volunteers scrambled to pull together a nine-person search-and-rescue team, listening devices and other gear to look for people buried under rubble.
The only thing the French aid workers didn’t have was a green light from Morocco to hop on a flight, which could have landed them in the North African country’s disaster zone little more than 24 hours after the 8 September quake that killed more than 2,900 people and injured at least 5,530 others in flattened villages and townhouses.
“The green light never came,” said Arnaud Fraisse, the team’s coordinator and founder of aid group Rescuers Without Borders. “All of our team members who train regularly year-round for this type of thing are miserable that they couldn’t leave and put their skills to use.”
Aid groups in Europe are frustrated that Morocco did not throw open its doors to outside assistance as Turkey did for a devastating quake in February. Quickly grasping the vast scale of the disaster, Turkey within hours appealed for international help, which enabled rescue crews from 90 countries to pull hundreds of people out alive.
Morocco has taken a more limited approach. It accepted government-offered search-and-rescue crews from Spain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the U.K., but it has not taken up other offers of emergency assistance from the United States, France and elsewhere.