Earthquake in Morocco: rescuers work in devastated villages

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Rescuers in Morocco stepped up their efforts on Wednesday to help mountain villages devastated by the violent earthquake that left nearly 3,000 dead, but hopes of finding survivors are dwindling five days after the disaster.

The earthquake, which struck a region of the High Atlas on Friday evening, southwest of the tourist city of Marrakech (center), left 2,946 dead and 5,674 injured, according to a latest official report Wednesday evening.

An aftershock was felt in Imi N’Tala, 70 km southwest of Marrakech, where a rock fell. One person was slightly injured and taken to hospital, according to an AFP team on site.

Faced with the scale of the disaster, the Moroccan authorities requested several foreign countries such as Spain, Great Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to send search and rescue teams.

The Red Cross has launched a fundraising appeal for around 100 million euros to support relief operations.

The earthquake devastated many homes in villages located in mountainous areas, sometimes very difficult to access, such as that of Ineghede, where eleven of its 200 inhabitants perished.

“We lost everything,” laments Mohammed al-Moutawak, a 56-year-old farmer.

A body was removed from the rubble of a collapsed house by a team of rescuers in Talat N’Yaqoub, south of Marrakech, according to images broadcast by television.

Solidarity

Three aid depots have been set up in Taroudant (south-west): food products, blankets and even mattresses are transported by land or helicopter depending on the condition of the tracks leading to the affected areas.

“We intervene in many places” that “vehicles cannot reach,” explained Captain Fahas Abdallah Al Dosanri, of the Qatari fire team.

In Tikht, where around sixty people died, the population also received help, including baby diapers collected by a local association.

“We have enough to eat thanks to the benefactors,” says Afrah Fouzia, a young woman of 18 years old installed in a tent at the foot of her completely destroyed village.

A little further away, in the town of Adassil, victims gathered at an improvised aid distribution point, where around twenty volunteers from the town of Iznit, some 400 km away, were working.

“We launched an appeal on Facebook and less than half an hour later, the donations started arriving in an incredible way,” says Mariam El Bakrem, a 38-year-old Moroccan. It chartered around forty trucks filled with food and clothing heading to the affected regions.

Rain

Despite the aid, survivors remain uncertain about their fate, with some fearing the arrival of rain.

“The authorities don’t tell us anything about this,” says Afrah Fouzia, from Tikht. “Soon it will start raining, getting colder, and there are lots of kids here.”

The head of the Moroccan government, Aziz Akhannouch, assured that citizens who had lost their homes would receive compensation.

The Moroccan army has set up field hospitals to treat the wounded in landlocked areas, such as in the village of Asni, in the disaster-stricken province of Al-Haouz, just over an hour from Marrakech.

Three injured people were evacuated on Wednesday from Ighil to Marrakech by an army helicopter. Between 35 to 40 evacuation and aid delivery missions to points inaccessible by road have been carried out since Saturday, according to the public television channel Al Oula.

Reconnaissance drones are also used for direct monitoring of the situation in disaster areas.

Teams from the Ministry of Equipment continued their work to reopen tracks leading to small mountainous villages in this province.

The earthquake reached magnitude 7, according to the Moroccan Center for Scientific and Technical Research (6.8 according to the American Institute of Geophysics, USGS). It is the most powerful to have ever been measured in Morocco.

It is also the deadliest in the kingdom since the one that destroyed Agadir, on the west coast, on February 29, 1960. From 12,000 to 15,000 people, or a third of the city’s population, died there.

Pope Francis, who visited Morocco in 2019, said his thoughts were “with the noble Moroccan people.”

“Let us pray for Morocco, let us pray for the inhabitants so that the Lord gives them the strength to recover.”

This article is originally published on arabnews.fr

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