Morocco quake survivors struggle in shelters, with some villages yet to receive help

A woman sits amongst the rubble of her village that was almost completely destroyed by Friday’s earthquake, on September 11, 2023 in Douzrou, Morocco.

Carl Court | Getty Images

Many survivors of Morocco’s most powerful earthquake in over a century were struggling in makeshift shelters on Tuesday after a fourth night outside, with rescuers yet to reach remote mountain villages which suffered some of the worst devastation.

The death toll from the 6.8 magnitude quake that struck in the High Atlas Mountains late on Friday stood at 2,862, with 2,562 people injured, but those figures looked likely to rise.

Rescuers from Spain, Britain and Qatar were helping Morocco’s search teams, while Italy, Belgium, France and Germany had all offered to send in specialists but said they had yet to receive the green light from the Moroccan government.

Hopes of finding survivors under the rubble were fading with the passage of time, not least because many of the traditional mud brick houses that are common in the mountain villages crumbled to earthen rubble without leaving air pockets.

Women react as volunteers recover the body of a familly member from the rubble of collapsed houses in the village of Imi N’Tala near Amizmiz in central Morocco after the deadly 6.8-magnitude September 8 earthquake, on September 10, 2023.

Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images

Along the Tizi n’Test road that passes through some of the most remote areas, survivors were critical of the rescue efforts by the government, which they accused of failing the most devastated hamlets.

“The problem is that the authorities are focusing on the bigger communities and not the remote villages that are worst affected,” said Hamid Ait Bouyali, 40, who had spent the night along the road on the outskirts of Rakte.

Some villages had yet to receive any help because roads were blocked by landfalls.

In Amizmiz, a large village at the foot of the mountains that has turned into an aid hub, some people made homeless by the quake had been provided with yellow tents by the authorities, but others were still sheltering under blankets.

Residents search destroyed buildings in moulas village in the Taroudant province, one of the most devastated in quake-hit Morocco, on September 11, 2023.

Fethi Belaid | AFP | Getty Images

“I am so scared. What will we do if it rains?” said Noureddine Bo Ikerouane, a carpenter, who was camping with his wife, mother-in-law and two sons, one of whom is autistic, in an improvised tent fashioned from blankets.

Aid offers not accepted

Omar Aneflous, a tailor, said even those whose homes were still standing were too scared to return because of the risk of collapse.

“Probably we will stay here for months or a year. People won’t go home because their homes risk falling. God knows how long we will stay here,” he said.

The only cafe open in the area was packed with people desperate for coffee and comfort, despite gaping cracks and holes in the wall and piles of debris on the floor.

A woman searches through the rubble of a home in Imoulas village of the Taroudant province, one of the most devastated in quake-hit Morocco, on September 11, 2023.

Fethi Belaid | AFP | Getty Images

A view shows damaged houses in Azzaden Valley, in the aftermath of Morocco’s deadliest earthquake September 11, 2023.

Janis Laizans | Reuters

Morocco has accepted offers of aid from Spain and Britain, which both sent search-and-rescue specialists with sniffer dogs, and from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Algeria said it had allocated three planes to transport rescue personnel and aid.

State TV said the Moroccan government might accept relief offers from other countries later.

Italy and Belgium joined France and Germany in saying they had offered to send in rescue teams but were still waiting for requests from Morocco.

Germany said it did not think the decision was political, but Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Taji told radio station Rtl that Morocco had chosen to receive aid only from countries with which it had close relations.

Brahim Aytnasr, 41, a father who lost his 7-year-old son Suleiman in the earthquake, carries a wooden pallet outside his damaged house, in a hamlet on the outskirts of Talat N’Yaaqoub, in the aftermath of Morocco’s deadliest earthquake September 11, 2023.

Hannah McKay | Reuters

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