Iowa Fulbright scholar witnesses Morocco quake, aftermath

She said settling into a new place where she doesn't speak the language was already full of uncertainty, and after the earthquake it's chaos.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 10:28 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Olivia Dunn isn’t just trying to acclimate to a strange country—she’s trying to do it as her new home reckons with a massive natural disaster.

Dunn is from Waverly, Iowa and a Fulbright Scholar who just finished her Master’s degree at the University of Iowa. She arrived in Morocco on Aug. 29, days before a magnitude 6.8 earthquake rocked much of the country on Sept. 8.

Wednesday, Moroccan authorities reported the quake has killed more than 2,900 people. Several thousand other people are injured. The United Nations estimates 300,000 people are directly impacted by Friday’s quake.

When the earthquake struck, Dunn was in Rabat, about three hours north of Marrakesh, the city close to the epicenter of the quake.

“We were far enough north that the tremors were relatively minor,” said Dunn.

“At first, it just seemed like the room was kind of shaking a little bit. And then it got a little bit stronger. But it probably only lasted a couple of minutes,” she added.

Dunn is now in Marrakesh, in the apartment she’ll live in while teaching English at a Moroccan university. However, when exactly the semester will start is unclear right now.

“We have a contact in the school that we’ve been talking with, but at this time, they’re still kind of figuring out exactly when classes will begin,” said Dunn. “Things were still a little up in the air prior to the earthquake, but I have heard since students travel from a fair distance to get to the university that may have delayed things a bit.”

Emergency responders have been digging and hammering through rubble to recover victims, even as Morocco has limited the amount of aid allowed into the country, bypassing offers from both France and the U.S.

Dunn said she hasn’t seen the worst of the damage in more remote areas. However, she said the atmosphere throughout the region is evident even to someone who doesn’t speak the language.

“You can definitely see and hear kind of on the streets, people that have a lot of kind of trepidation and anxiety about what’s what’s going on and everything,” said Dunn.