Responders excavate bodies in Moroccan mountain villages destroyed by last week’s earthquake

September 14, 2023 03:12 AM | Updated Sep 13, 2023 at 11:28 PM EDT – IMI N’TALA, Morocco

The smell of death wafts through the village of Imi Natala high in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, where last week’s catastrophic earthquake destroyed the village’s mud-brick buildings and killed dozens of residents.

On Tuesday, bulldozers, rescue crews and Moroccan responders dug through the rubble around the clock in hopes of finding between 8 and 10 bodies still under the rubble.

A local resident, Ait Ogadir Al-Hussein, said while crews were working to recover the bodies, including that of his sister, “The mountain split into two halves and began to collapse. The houses were completely destroyed.” “Some people lost all their livestock. We only have the clothes we wear. Everything is gone.”

The scene in Imi Natala, inhabited mainly by shepherds and farmers and which lost 96 people in Friday’s earthquake, mirrors the situation in dozens of communities along the treacherous mountain roads south of Marrakesh. Men wearing donated jilbabs — long, loose-fitting robes common in Morocco — meticulously arranged their prayer rugs over dust and rocks when they couldn’t find an open space and solid ground. The donkeys brayed as they passed people, covering their noses to prevent the smell of decomposition.

The numbers of dead and wounded rose as responders reached more of these remote villages, exhuming bodies and sending people to hospitals. The Moroccan authorities announced 2,901 deaths and several thousand infections as of Tuesday. The United Nations estimated that the 6.8-magnitude earthquake affected about 300,000 people.

On Tuesday, King Mohammed VI visited a hospital and donated blood in Marrakesh, located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Imi-Natala. Aid has finally reached nearby Emi-Ntala communities such as Anugal, Emi-Nisli and Igordan. White and yellow tents lined the partially paved roads, water bottles and milk cartons were stacked nearby, and Moroccans from the country’s major cities distributed clay tagine pots and neatly packed food aid bags.

Camera crews from France, Spain and Qatar’s Al Jazeera lined up as Moroccan emergency responders – along with crews from Qatar, Spain and international NGOs – hammered through rocks to retrieve a woman’s body from under a collapsed house that looked like it could have fallen anywhere. Moment.

AFP’s Patrick Villadre said she likely died because – unlike the buildings that fell in Turkey and the earthquake that struck Syria earlier this year – the clay bricks used to build the homes in Emi-Ntala did not leave much room for the air that the trapped people needed to stay afloat. Alive. Rescue crew, ULIS.

“When we dig, we look for a living person. From here, we don’t ask ourselves questions. If they’re alive, great. If they’re dead, it’s a shame,” he said, noting that recovering the dead is important for Moroccan families.

Morocco has limited the amount of earthquake aid allowed into the country and has allowed response crews from only four countries — Spain, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar — as well as non-governmental organizations. Philadry’s crew of five people and four dogs from Nice were among the few French NGOs to arrive at the disaster site. He said he arrived on Saturday.

Although the government warned that poor aid coordination would be “counterproductive,” this explanation raised doubts among some Moroccans, including Ibrahim Ait Blasri, who watched the recovery attempts in Imi-Natala.

“This is not true. It is politics,” he said, referring to Morocco’s decision not to accept aid from countries like the United States and France. “We have to put our pride aside. “This is too much.”

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(Tags for translation) Morocco earthquake

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