Morocco quake leaves half of village’s population dead or missing
The initial encounter we had with the first resident of Tafeghaghte provided a straightforward evaluation of the extensive destruction caused by the earthquake in Morocco.
Their words were stark: “In this village, people are either hospitalized or deceased.”
As we climbed to the top of the debris, it became evident that no one had been spared from the catastrophe. The traditional houses, constructed from bricks and stones, were ill-equipped to withstand the magnitude of the earthquake.
Out of the 200 inhabitants, ninety have been officially confirmed as deceased, and many others remain unaccounted for.
“They had no opportunity to escape, no time to save themselves,” remarks Hassan, who also made his way up the rubble.
Hassan reveals that his uncle remains trapped beneath the debris, with no hope of rescue. There is no machinery available locally for such an operation, and external assistance has yet to arrive.
“We attribute this to Allah and express our gratitude, but now we urgently require our government’s assistance. They have been slow, very slow in providing aid to the people,” he adds.
Hassan further suggests that the Moroccan authorities should accept any international aid offers, although he harbors concerns that pride might hinder this acceptance.
On the opposite side of this small community, it is evident that everyone is offering solace to a particular man.
We come to know his name is Abdou Rahman. He has tragically lost his wife and his three sons.
“Our house was up there,” he says pointing to the area where it once stood. It is now just part of an expanse of debris.
“You can see the white blankets and the furniture too. Everything else has gone.”
Abdou Rahman says he ran 3km (1.9 miles) home from the petrol station where he worked after the earthquake hit.
He says he instinctively began calling out for his children, his shouts joining a din of others doing the same. There was no reply for him.
“We buried them yesterday,” he says.
“When we found them, they were all huddled together. The three boys were asleep. They went down with the earthquake.”
In a large tent just off the winding mountain road that connects the village to the outside world, dozens of families are sitting together.
There is inconsolable crying coming from every direction.
This latest wave of grief has been prompted by the body of a 10-year-old girl, Khalifa, being pulled from the debris.
This is grief in its rawest form. One woman faints, and another slumps into her chair and wails.
Morocco’s tragedy is that this scene is being played out in village after village across the Atlas Mountains.
Traditional communities may have been content to be separate from some of the pressures of the modern world, but now, more than ever, they need outside help. Desperately so – and as quickly as possible.