Morocco Quake: Survivors Recount First Moments Of Debilitating Experience As Death Toll Soars


Rescuers with a dead body on stretcher.

The first moments of a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the Atlas mountains of Morocco late Friday South-West of the tourist centre of Marrakesh are being recalled by some survivors. Authorities report that the death toll has continued to climb to surpass 2600, making the quake the deadliest in Morocco in 60 years.

Recalled one survivor: “I came home to find the house destroyed and the children under the rubble”.

Another, a woman, recounted the horror of the quake as she and her children screamed and screamed until people heard them and pulled them out of the rubble.

The earthquake wiped out entire villages in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, where civilian rescuers and members of Morocco’s armed forces had searched for survivors and the bodies of the dead.

Many houses in remote mountain villages were built from mud bricks.

While the foreign teams begin to arrive, Moroccan authorities have erected emergency shelters. Bright yellow tents were visible along the road into Tikht, a village which has effectively ceased to exist.

Members of the government’s civil protection service carried camp beds from a military-type truck toward the tents. Non-profit groups were also in the area to assess needs.

Previously home to at least 100 families, Tikht has been reduced to a tangle of timber, chunks of masonry as well as broken plates, shoes and the occasional intricately patterned rug.

Said Mohssin Aksum, 33, who had family in the settlement, where residents and their livestock were killed: “Life is finished here. The village is dead”.

Citizens reported to hospitals in Marrakesh and elsewhere to donate blood for the injured. Among the donors were members of Morocco’s national football team.

Other volunteers organised food and essential goods to help quake victims, after complaints that authorities were slow to respond.

Cried one volunteer, Mohamed Belkaid, 65: “Everyone must mobilise. And that includes the authorities, but they seem to be absent”.

The education ministry announced that school classes were “suspended” in the worst-hit villages of Al-Haouz province, the quake epicentre.

Some parts of Marrakesh’s historic medina and its network of alleyways saw significant damage, with mounds of rubble and crumpled buildings in the World Heritage site.

Dozens of people continued to sleep outdoors overnight in the modern quarter of Marrakesh. Some stretched out on the median strip of Mohamed VI Avenue. Others lay at the foot of their parked cars.

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva began its session on Monday with a minute’s silence for the quake victims.

Said Gambia’s ambassador Muhammadu Kah, who proposed the tribute: “We are part of a global collectivity: humanity”.

The quake was the deadliest in Morocco since a 1960 earthquake destroyed Agadir, killing 12,000-15,000 people. Rescue teams search for victims in devastated Talat N’Yaaqoub village.

Moroccan rescuers supported by newly-arrived foreigners on Monday faced an intensifying race against time to dig out any survivors from the rubble of mountain villages, on the third day after the country’s strongest-ever earthquake.

The 6.8-magnitude quake struck the Atlas mountains late Friday South-West of the tourist centre of Marrakesh, killing almost 2,700 people and injuring a similar number, the latest official toll issued Monday revealed.

Rabat on Sunday announced it had accepted aid offers from four nations, while many other countries said they were willing to send assistance.

Authorities have responded favourably “at this stage” to offers from Spain, Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates “to send search and rescue teams”, the interior ministry said.

It noted the foreign teams were in contact with Moroccan authorities to coordinate efforts, and said only four offers had been accepted so far, arguing that “a lack of coordination could be counterproductive”.

President Emmanuel Macron said France was willing to provide aid “the second” Morocco requested it.

Said French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, to BFMTV on Monday: “Morocco is a sovereign country and it’s up to it to organise the aid”.

She announced the release of five million euros ($5.4 million) to help non-governmental groups already on the ground in Morocco

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