Belgium has updated its travel advisory page concerning Morocco after the devastating earthquake that took place Friday night.
The warning however only covers the most affected areas. “Following the massive earthquake that hit the province of Al Haouz on the night of 8 September, travel to the area around Marrakech, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant is strongly discouraged until further notice”, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states on its website.
According to Belga news agency, about 630 Belgian citizens are “currently believed to have registered through official channels as being in the region”. The most affected areas, which the travel warning refers to, are either in the Atlas Mountains, where the earthquake epicentre was, or around Marrakech, the largest city in the region, which was severely damaged.
Other countries however have not issued similar warnings yet, while travel agencies are not cancelling trips. As airports remain open, most tourists are also opting to continue with their scheduled travel plans.
TUI Belgium has indicated that, since the earthquake did not damage any of their hotels, they are not cancelling any trips, which means that, tourists who wish to abandon their plans, will not be reimbursed for their trips. “None of our hotels have been damaged”, said TUI Belgium spokesman Piet Demeyere. “In this case, we have no reason to cancel a trip with our partners there. Unfortunately, this means 100% cancellation costs.”
The only cancelled trips that will be reimbursed are the ones that were supposed to take place during the three official days of mourning that Morocco declared following the earthquake. “As this is a case of force majeure, these will be refunded”, Demeyere explained.
The death toll of what has become Morocco’s deathliest earthquake in decades has risen above 2,100 victims. Additionally, at least 31,400 people with injuries have been recorded, of which 1,220 are in critical condition.
Across Marrakech, every suitable space has been converted into emergency shelters for those who lost their homes, with beds being set up not only in public buildings that were left unscathed by the earthquake, but also in city squares and even roundabouts.
While people in the city are able to access aid more easily, access is challenging for emergency responders trying to reach villages closer to the epicentre in the mountains, places that are “already difficult” to get to “before you compound that with difficulties like rubble or problems with roads”, according to Stanford University Morocco expert, Samia Errazzouki, in the Guardian.