Al Haouz agonizes under rubble

Al Haouz agonizes under rubble

Dr. Abdelhadi Yakoubi gulped down his fifth coffee by Sunday night, treated his 74th patient, stayed awake for the 23rd hour of  the day – and today, he’ll embark on the first trip of what will become a medical hiking expedition to reach inaccessible al Houz villages destroyed by the quake. 

Tafeghaghet, a remote village tucked in the rugged Atlas mountains where the earthquake struck hard, is his initial destination. Dr. Yakoubi and his team of four, based near Marrakech in Amzmize, will bring essential supplies like first aid kits, oxygen tanks, and medical equipment to aid those trapped under rubble.

“We’ll set up tent and assist as many as we can. NGOs are joining in, and I’ve heard that national agencies are already on the scene. We’ll do what we can with our resources and steadily make our way up the mountain.”

After Tafeghaghet, none of the villages have received aid.

Dozens of  villages – once popular tourism destinations – now lay in ruins, with locals, who on top of having to pull out the dead and bury them, are struggling for survival without food, water – granted they were hardly connected to electricity to begin with.

But this situation isn’t just unique to remote villages. In Amzmize, just one hour away from Marrakech a group of a dozen men  gathered in front of an aid-loaded blue truck. Each wanted something to bring back to their families who now live in open fields, gardens and town squares. 

“Just give something to the children. They are cold at night.They are hungry, please help us,” one of the men in the crowd shouted.  No authorities were in sight. He says he hasn’t slept since Friday from the shock of losing family members to the quake, as he lifted blistered and bruised hands to show the crowd. 

Locals say the aid has been unfairly distributed with some neighborhoods among the 11,000 inhabitants of the town having received nothing as of Sunday afternoon.  

Among these people is Latifa Saddir who joined me in the car, alongside her three years old daughter Amal for a warm seat, and air conditioning. Her daughter ate cookies and swung her legs next to her.

“Do you know how many people have died? I hear it’s about 51 people,” Saddir said. 

I tell  her over two thousand people have died. She gasps. 

“Do you think the world knows this happened to us?”

“Everyone in the world knows. They are all sending their condolences”

“I had no idea. We only access the news through TV, but with that gone, we have no way of knowing what’s happening,” she said, before jumping out of the car to join her sister. 

Together they sleep with eight other family members on a carpet in the streets. “Dogs roam around us all night, it’s extremely cold and there is not a single street light working,” Saddir said.

Her house hasn’t collapsed but fears that it might have pushed her and the entire town to the streets, where the sights of broken chairs, pieces of clothing, furniture – and at one point an intact Moghrabi wine bottle – pierce out of the half-way through demolished houses. 

In a more well-off neighborhood, the sights of flashy yellow tents covered the open field where people had taken shelter. Families had ovens, stocks of food and water. They sat around a late lunch table with a warm meal and a fresh watermelon. They invited the helicoptering journalists to share in their meal.

“If you haven’t eaten please come join us,” says what appeared to be the matriarch of the family. I decline and say thank you. She turns to a group of teenagers, 16-21, and invites them. They decline too. 

“Other people need that food more,” they say, grouped in around a single Decathlon tent where they sometimes take turns to sleep, the signs of trauma visible on their faces.

They were among the first responders to the quake and have helped the search and rescue a dozen people. They have lost friends, family members, and parents.

They described the horrors of violent death, which they say will forever be fixed in their memory: people hanging by the torso, limbs cut off, gut and brain matter mashed on the ground. 

When civil services arrived for search and rescue, the teenagers stood down. 

But with remote villages having received little help, efforts are still needed. Monday will see the last attempts to rescue people alive. 

National efforts, with the help of Spain, Qatar, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates will set out today on treacherous mountain roads to provide much needed assistance.


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