The villages of Morocco that were affected by the earthquake are where rescuers discovered only corpses. On Monday, residents observed a rescue operation in Elbour, Morocco.
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According to the Moroccan government, the earthquake that struck Morocco on Monday resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. The government responded by sending international rescue teams and emergency workers who were struggling to reach those trapped under rubble or through blocked roads due to landslides.
The Moroccan government has acknowledged receiving some foreign aid, such as from Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Britain, for the rescue operation following the 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Friday, which killed at least 2,862 people and injured more than 2,500. This was the most devastating earthquake to hit Morocco in over a century, leaving communities already struggling with poverty and isolation.
Despite the magnitude of the challenge and the limited time left to find survivors, other governments, including Germany, suggested that their offers of assistance had been ignored, leading to confusion and consternation.
The Federal Agency for Technical Relief in Germany dispatched a 50-person team to Cologne Bonn Airport over the weekend, but it was sent back home on Sunday. Rescue workers in other European nations, including France, are still without power.
A team of emergency responders, comprising soldiers, government civil defense workers, private sector volunteers, and locals, worked to rescue relatives from the earthquake zone by digging through debris. They often used their bare hands while military helicopters flew over in an apparent attempt to reach the far-off locations.
Rescue workers and locals work together in Elbour, Morocco on September 11 to find survivors amidst the debris. (Claire Parker, left)
The government stated on Monday that Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch chaired an emergency meeting in Rabat, the capital, to commit to continuing relief efforts and accelerating crisis management measures while providing support and assistance to affected communities.
A statement indicated that the government was implementing a strategy, in accordance with Royal Palace guidelines, to initiate reconstruction efforts and provide assistance to those who were homeless.
The disaster has caused neither Akhannouch nor King Mohammed VI to make public appearances.
Asni, located approximately 25 miles south of Marrakesh, saw the opening of a military field hospital and displacement camp for people from devastated communities in the surrounding hills. Although it is fully equipped for surgery, no patients were being treated at this time, and several ambulances were left waiting nearby.
For two days, Morocco’s civil protection service had prepared 30 tents for families, with some having to share accommodations. Women and children were positioned on thick rugs on the ground, while young children played in the dirt and received food and supplies from the government, but they needed help from private groups.
A woman stated that the absence of toilets necessitates people to use one of the nearby destroyed houses for bathroom needs.
The family had been in the area since Saturday and Rahma, 14, was seen standing outside a blue tent while her mother talked to relatives.
Rahma stated that the future remains unknown to them.
A team of rescue workers from the Moroccan military had been working around the clock since the early hours of Saturday to extract bodies from rubble in the small mountain village of Elbour, which is situated above the Ouirgane reservoir. According to Imad Elbachir, there were 44 rescue personnel on site at the scene following the earthquake.
Elbachir reported that two survivors were rescued, one of whom was a 12-year-old boy named Hamza. He was taken to sanitized condition but left in utter shock after losing his entire family.
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They have been using a large digger and some men from the village to carefully remove the dead, with bodies being transported on trolleys for cleaning in accordance with Muslim customs, before being laid to rest in the cemetery located on the hillside.
Elbachir reported that 14 bodies were retrieved by military rescuers on Monday, but only three remained. One of the bodies belonged to Badr, a 7-year-old boy, while his grieving mother, Habiba, lay in bushes nearby to offer her son’s burial place.
The earthquake caused the death of her family, including her parents, husband, two brothers and their wives, and reduced their dwelling to a mound of wood, concrete, or crumbled red clay.
Habiba was cradled by the village women, who then gave her a cuddle and said to her: “Grateful that he died nearby so you can bury him.”
An excavator, shovels and bare hands were employed by rescue workers to clear the path towards Badr. A man quickly arrived at the clearing and requested a blanket, prompting Habiba to stand and moan as she made her way back to the rescue site. Shortly before the boy was extracted, women took HaBiba away to prevent any further harm.
The stretcher was lifted by rescue workers who then proceeded to move along the main road, with the small body wrapped in a purple blanket. Badr was being washed, and Habiba lay on soiled pink mattresses outside the building, struggling to breathe. Rescue workers and village men then brought the body back to their workplace across town.
With their heads down, they lined up to offer a last prayer before carrying the boy to the cemetery. They then gently placed the small bundle, wrapped in white linen, into the red earth and covered it with concrete blocks.
Rania Najji, a 24-year-old woman from Habiba’s family, reported that the locals were sleeping in the open and experiencing the cold night. Although no tents had been found, she noted that donations had provided enough food for the hungry people.
She stated that the only things she received from the Moroccan state were rescue aid and civil protection services. People are in dire need of food, milk, diapers, and other necessities.
Emergency workers, doctors, and nurses arrived in the village on Monday evening.
Following a 6.8-magnitude earthquake, Claire Parker recorded the road to Talat N’Yaacoub, Morocco.
The southern route to Talat N’Yaaqoub, which is situated twenty miles south, was obstructed by ambulances and private cars driven by volunteers on a narrow mountain road that was marked with switchbacks. Donkeys were used to transport supplies such as water, blankets, and food to remote villages that are not reachable by car.
Mud-brick houses and concrete shops were scattered throughout the town, leaving rescue workers in groups of 20 or 30 to dig out bodies until they were replaced by other teams.
Hamza Zilaf and his colleagues arrived in Talat N’Yaaqoub on Sunday night, bringing along three private ambulances from Khouribga, which is 150 miles away, as the first to arrive.
The group had to clear rocks with a bulldozer because the road was “extremely difficult,” and they spent the night in Talat N’Yaaqoub, providing aid and medication to as many people as possible. They then continued up the mountain on Monday, offering help to seven other villages.
He described the sights as “terrifying.” He mentioned that there were no power, water, or food available. People were injured, but others were unresponsive and had broken limbs and backs. They also had open wounds from cuts and respiratory problems.
One rescuer in Talat N’Yaaqoub stated that the work was now a “recovery mission” after losing hope in saving people on Monday.
Morris reported from Berlin, while Fahim was based in Istanbul.