Moroccan authorities announced February 6 they've temporarily closed nearly 900 schools due to cold wave and severe weather conditions expected to continue affecting the country. At the same time, southern Morocco experienced its second snow of this season and the second in 50 years. The current situation comes just 15 days after exceptional snowfall caused unprecedented road conditions across the country, shutting down 5 000 km (3 100 miles) of roads.
This week's closure of schools is mainly affecting rural areas, Morocco's Ministry of Education, Training and Scientific Research said. The decision aims to protect students and teachers from all weather-related hazards, the ministry said, adding that the institutions concerned are the regional academies of Daraa Tafilalet, Marrakech-Safi, Beni Mellal-Khenifra, Fez-Meknes and Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima.
On February 5 and 6, regions in southern Morocco experienced their second snow within a week, in many locations it was the first time they saw snow for at least 50 years. Some southern regions described the conditions as those experienced during blizzards!
The snow came to the south after several decades of extremely dry weather and affected regions such as Ouarzazate (gateway to the Sahara Desert), Taroudant and even Zagora, which hasn't experienced snowfall since 1968.
Up to 282 cm (111 inches) of snow was recorded on Jabal Habri (Ifrane) from February 6 to 7 and 272 cm (107 inches) at Michlifen weather station. In the city of Ifrane, the snow reached 173 cm (68 inches) deep.
In the province of Khenifra, snow depths of 170 cm (66.9 inches) were recorded in Moulay Yaâcoub and 190 cm (74.8 inches) in Ouiwane. In Beni-Mellal, 85 cm (33.4 inches) was recorded at Aghbala.
On February 8, local media warned residents that snow and rainfall are making travel impossible to and from several mountainous and rural regions of Morocco, delaying travel plans for thousands of people and shutting down schools.
The Government has launched what they described as an 'exceptional mobilization' in response to the consequences of the cold wave heavy snow preventing travel on 38 national roads.
"This mission will benefit about 514 000 people in 22 different provinces," MWN quoted officials. However, the Head of Government explained that despite these efforts "there are difficulties in some areas, mainly due to insufficient numbers of available snowplows."
These snowstorms, which reached up 200 cm (79 inches), have caused damage in areas 'where it hasn’t snowed for at least 50 years,' officials said.
Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani said that more than 600 doctors and nearly 2 000 nurses were mobilized to provide medical assistance to areas isolated due to snow and heavy rain.
Additional healthcare has been made available to pregnant women, and 373 women in the delivery phase have been treated in general or specialized maternity hospitals, while special helicopters were mobilized to evacuate urgent cases to nearby hospitals.
"The affected areas have also benefited from large quantities of food supplies, including flour, rice, sugar, tea, salt, oil and milk as well as blankets to fend the cold," El Othmani Said.
King Mohammed VI said that they have to do more to provide comfort to rural areas despite these efforts, while El Othmani agreed and stressed that aid will continue until the weather returns to normal.
Featured image: Snow in Ouarzazate on February 7, 2018. Credit: ouarzazateonline