After the 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Atlas Mountains in Morocco on Friday, the world has responded, with the travel industry leading the way for those currently travelling in or due to visit the country.
Risk management company Crisis24 has told people and companies to ‘consider vacating multi-storey buildings if operating in affected areas until authorities confirm their structural integrity’. It also warned about aftershocks, saying: “Allow additional time for air and road travel, as aftershocks may prompt brief disruptions. Seek updated information on road conditions before driving in hilly areas in the affected region due to potential landslides.”
Air travel is continuing to and from Morocco. The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which publishes travel advice for British nationals, stated: “All Moroccan airports are open and flights to and from the UK are operating normally, with some airlines laying on additional seats for travellers wishing to return to the UK earlier than planned.
“Travellers wishing to change their flight plans should liaise directly with their tour operators or airline companies.
“If you are planning to travel to Morocco imminently, we advise you check with your accommodation provider/tour operator to confirm arrangements before departure in case of disruption or damage resulting from the earthquake.”
British tour operator TUI has advised that as there has been no change in FCDO advice, ‘customers remain in their hotels and flights are operating’ but it will ‘closely monitor the situation and will keep customers informed of any relevant updates’.
TUI also confirmed it has seen ‘minimal damage to the hotels’ and ‘customers in Morocco are continuing with their holidays’. The company added: “We ask our customers in Morocco to please follow instructions by your hoteliers and local authorities. If you need additional information or assistance, please contact your TUI rep on the ground, the TUI contact centre or speak to one of our customer support team using the 24/7 TUI app.”
TUI’s next planned flights are Friday 15 September.
easyJet also published its advice. Those who were travelling over the weekend were contacted directly about their trips. The airline is also following FCDO and local authorities’ advice, and said: “The airports are open and our schedule to Morocco is operating as normal today, but we advise any customers travelling to check the status of their flight on our Flight Tracker or via the app.”
ABTA, the trade association for the travel industry, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life and devastation this has caused and our deepest sympathies go out to all those affected.”
Its advice to holidaymakers was as follows: “Customers currently on holiday in and around the affected areas are advised to monitor news reports and follow any advice or instructions issued by the local authorities, their travel company or their accommodation provider. Anyone due to travel imminently to the areas affected should speak to their travel company for the latest advice.”
For travel insurers, situations like earthquakes present unique challenges. Elad Schaffer, Co-Founder and CEO of Faye Travel Insurance explained what his company has done for those in Morocco. “We view travel insurance as much more than a claims reimbursement service,” he said. “When the earthquake hit Morocco, we immediately opened a situation room, released important emergency information to the public, made sure our assistance team was staffed appropriately, and got ready to help bring our customers back to safety and connect them with their loved ones. We recognized very little support was offered elsewhere, and extended our assistance to travellers regardless of whether they are insured by us.”
Schaffer added: “When disaster strikes like it has in Morocco, and we have the support resources to help, we believe it’s the right thing for our team to step in and assist other US travellers in getting home safe and sound - those with or without a Faye policy.”
Assistance companies, who work alongside travel insurers, also have had to adapt to the situation. Lara Helmi, Managing Director, CONNEX Assistance explained: “In a disaster situation like we are seeing in Morocco, up to date, correct information about your network is critical to ensure you can deliver assistance to all your clients the way you would before the earthquake.
“In the last 24 hours information on what facilities are operational, and which have been structurally affected, or overwhelmed with casualties is critical. This is why we spend so much of our resources building a diverse and resilient network infrastructure that ensures we are able to deliver efficient and effective assistance even in the most challenging environment.”
Update 12 September
Turkish assistance company marm assistance added how they are reacting to the ‘recent tragic earthquake’. “To better understand situation,” it said, “we can reach out to the local companies we collaborate with in Morocco. This will allow us to gather more comprehensive information about the current situation.”
The company also recognised the gravity of the situation: “Earthquakes are truly devastating events, and we can empathise deeply with their pain and suffering, having experienced a similar ordeal ourselves last February,” it said.
Dr Cenk Aydınçer, a Family Medicine Specialist working as a Medical Officer at marm Assistance advised on the short-, mid-, and long-term needs after an earthquake.
In the short-term, he suggested:
- Food and field kitchens for hot meals
- Drinking water
- Clothing for winter conditions
- Emergency medical care and medicines
- Burials of the deceased
- Urgent repairs of infrastructure, telecommunication networks and internet.
In the mid-term:
- Portable toilets and showers
- Replacement of lost official documents
- Replacement of medical devices
- Management of chronic disease patients
- Special care for mothers, children, and pregnant women
- Teenagers should be given duties otherwise they will feel lost
- Psychological support.
In the long-term:
- Repair of infrastructure and industrial facilities
- Recreation of earthquake resistant buildings in geologically safer zones
- Creation of emergency gardens – safe gathering areas containing necessary items for basic needs for future disasters
- Physiological and physical rehabilitation of survivors – providing prothesis and rehabilitation
- Making cities and villages habitable again.
This is an ongoing and developing situation. The information in this article is correct at time of writing.