Morocco earthquake survivors picking up the pieces after losing family and homes

More than 2,000 people were killed and many injured in a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the country on Friday

Photo shows medical staff and volunteers from the Red Crescent and scouts, as well as tents set up by the military and the Ministry of Interior in Tahnaout village, in Al Haouz district’s regional hospital which received the first victims of the quake and is the closest to the epicentre. Photo: Ghaya Ben Mbarek / The National
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An earthquake in Morocco's High Atlas mountains which killed at least 2,012 people, and injured hundreds more has left the entire country reeling from the tragedy.

Abdel Rahim Masoud felt the ground shaking and the wall of his house collapsing within seconds of the earthquake starting.

Luckily, he was close to the door and was able to escape with his sister.

“Within the blink of an eye, everything crumbled around me and my life flashed before my eyes … I thought those were my last moments,” Mr Masoud told The National as he sat inside a tent set up by the Moroccan Army inside Tehanout Regional Hospital, in El Haouz district.

Although he dislocated his shoulder and lost his house in the quake, Mr Masoud is thankful that he is still alive.

A new life was destined for him, he said.

“I know that we have lost everything, our parents, our homes and our businesses, but whatever God means to us must come with good intention and better days are coming for sure”, Mr Masoud said.

Mr Massoud said his entire village of Saniyat Yaakoub, in El Haouz District, was destroyed

Not everyone in his family was as lucky as him to escape. Mr Masoud was not able to get his elderly parents out of the house and his sister, who died in the earthquake.

Afroukh Ibrahim lost his two children in the quake, an 18-month-old boy and a girl, 2.

His village, Tinkest of Qiyadet Weryen municipality in El Haouz district, was completely wiped out.

“It is hard, losing your children and not being able to reach out to them and come to their rescue is a devastating experience,” Mr Ibrahim told The National.

What started as an ordinary night for him, turned into one the worst in his life.

“What I saw in my village is unimaginable, everything flattened in a second and no house remained standing,” he said.

“We have urgently started receiving patients as soon as the disaster took place, we treated everyone needing urgent care and when they became stable we transferred them to Marrakesh University Hospital,” Abdelmalek Al Mansouri, regional health director at El Haouez district, told The National at El Haouz regional hospital.

The hospital received approximately 1,165 patients, Dr Al Mansouri said, as they are the nearest to the epicentre of the earthquake.

“We are thankfully receiving enough support from all the bodies of the state, backup medical staff has been dispatched from different regions and the necessary equipment was also provided,” he added.

In Azrou village, part of Aghwatim municipality, and about 70 kilometres away from the most damaged towns, people are now living in tents and sleeping on the side of the road after their entire villages were wiped out.

Situated right inside the Atlas Mountains, villages were more vulnerable to destruction, especially houses that were made of clay and rocks.

“My son and I were just talking when the house started shaking, we did not know what was happening I just took my kids and Ran,” Mina Abderrahmen told The National near the tent which has become her new home in the past two days.

Mrs Abderrahmen who had two children, a boy aged 14 and a girl aged 6, said her son froze and could not get out of the door when their house started shaking.

“He would not move from fear, I just had to throw him out of the door,” she said.

Mrs Abderrahman said she is thankful that they survived but losing her home and having nowhere to go with her children has been very difficult for them.

“We are devastated for losing our homes, I have no idea where my children and I would go after this,” she said.

The National reports from a hospital in Morocco which is treating earthquake victims

The National reports from a hospital in Morocco which is treating earthquake victims

Meanwhile, in Marrakesh, people continue to camp out in parks and car parks, out of fear that aftershocks could bring their buildings down.

“It only lasted for a few seconds but it’s an experience you can never forget,” Marrakesh resident Mohssen Al Farqi told The National.

“Even though it’s safer now, we can still feel the ground moving,” Mr Al Farqi added.

Tourists who left their hotels to escape the quake are sleeping on the floors at Marrakesh Menara Airport.

Closer to the epicentre of the earthquake and right on the side of Atlas Mountain, 40 people were killed in Douar El Darb, a small village that belongs to the Werguen municipality of El Haouz district.

Many remain trapped or have become homeless after losing their homes.

Even the houses that are still standing are at risk of collapsing due to the cracks and damage that the quake has left behind.

Aytou Maalem Hassan spent about 6 hours under the rubble after his house collapsed.

“It felt like a grave … I was buried alive, wished for death for death every moment but I ultimately kept my faith in God,” Mr Hassan told The National.

His sister, who was sleeping on the ground floor, was killed. Volunteers and civil defence continue to dig to retrieve her body.

“There are still bodies everywhere here [under the rubble],” a resident in the Douar El Darb village said.

People are anxious as they do not know what the future holds for them.

“We are sleeping on the concrete, in the forest and in whatever place, we do not where to go after this,” Aicha who lost her sister in the earthquake told The National.

She came from Casablanca after hearing the news, she is still waiting to receive her sister's body to bury it.

Villagers of Douar El Darb say they are thankful for the help they received from both the authorities and civil society organisations, but have asked for more help.

“No one could bear seeing their children crying and without a shelter … We need rescue,” another elderly from the village interjected and said.

Updated: September 11, 2023, 8:49 AM