Once bulldozers cleared out road 203 leading to the epicenter of the Morocco earthquake, cars came flooding in.
Laden with food, blankets, and medical supplies, hundreds of Moroccans threaded since Monday morning the narrow ledge, towards Talt N’yacoub village – where the overpowering smell of death spoke of the sheer devastation wrought by the earthquake.
The village was in ruins, its buildings reduced to rubble, and the survivors sat huddled in front of their old houses, awaiting excavation efforts to pull out the bodies of their loved ones. The very ground they walked on was made of the bodies of their friends, family, and neighbors.
Locals stared at the cars with hollow eyes, their faces streaked with dust and soot, each with a request: toothache medicine, baby diapers, blankets, tents and water.
“Just wait a little bit. My friends are on the way and I promise to save some things for you,’ Khouribga medic Salah Noukri told one of the locals. Mohammed Ait Mansour walked with his son, and brother from a village further up the mountain after he heard that donations are available in Talt N’yacoub.
Noukri told MoroccoLatestNews that he and a group of volunteers were the first to reach Talt N’yacoub on Sunday night. Just behind a bulldozer, Noukri’s ambulance crept forward to the epicenter of the quake. When they inched closer, the sights of the injured and grieving grew more graphic. “I just did not expect it to be this bad. The devastation is horrifying.”
Setting up a makeshift triage in the entrance of the village. They treated injuries ranging from minor scrapes to life-threatening trauma, all under the dim light of a few lanterns and flashlights.
On Monday morning they were again the first to take the road to villages up the mountain. Noukri said he was followed by protection services, rescuers, and NGOs on the road up where winds often buffeted the pass, occasionally dislodging rocks and asphalt.
As they moved from village to village – 7 in total, Noukri saw that the supplies they had brought were not nearly enough to meet the needs of the survivors. He had to make the heart-wrenching decision to triage the most critical cases. By 3 pm Monday they were down again to Talt N’yacoub to restock.
Spanish teams were working with their Moroccan counterparts in Talt N’yacoub where rescue missions were by the minute becoming excavation missions.
Visibly overworked, rescuers are expecting units to join them from Elbour village, down the road leading up to the epicenter.
Search efforts in Elbour were wrapping up as they pulled out the body of an eight year old who died alongside father, grandfather and uncles. His mother is the only one to survive – but barely.
In an emotionally distressed state, the mother, x, cried and wailed nearby her old house – now a pile of collapsed concrete – before lapsing back on the shoulders of her neighbors who comforted her with supportive words.
The excavation of her son is one of the last in the village with only two remaining, as dozens of army and rescuers were working since early Saturday to search and rescue the dead. 26 people have been found and buried.
“We have lost families, neighbors and we hardly have an idea where our surviving relatives are,” a local in Elbour told MoroccoLatestNews.
With phone lines down, electricity cut off, and no internet access, it was as if the entire region had been cut off from the rest of the world. People had no way to contact their loved ones or even to learn the full scope of the devastation.
On Tuesday, rescue efforts will continue to reach remote areas in Alhouz. Nearly 3000 people have died.
The Alhouz quake was the deadliest in Morocco since the 1960 Agadir earthquake that killed nearly 15,000 people.