HomeTop StoriesRace against time to rescue survivors buried in the rubble

Race against time to rescue survivors buried in the rubble

Morocco faces a race against time to rescue those trapped under the rubble from Friday’s earthquake, as emergency services battle to supply remote areas.

Villagers continue to dig and shovel by hand to find survivors, while relief teams struggle to bring in machines.

Those same tools may now be needed to prepare the graves for some of the thousands killed in the earthquake.

People ‘have nothing left’, one villager told the BBC. “People are hungry. Children want water. They need help.”

Friday’s earthquake, the country’s deadliest in 60 years, struck among a remote group of mountain villages south of Marrakech.

The government reported that at least 2,122 people were killed and more than 2,421 injured, many seriously.

The magnitude 6.8 earthquake collapsed houses, blocked roads and tossed buildings as far as the country’s northern coast.

The old city of Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was damaged.

Mountain villages deeply affected by the earthquake in Morocco

Moroccan King Mohammed VI declared three days of national mourning on Saturday as the aftermath continued to unfold.

Civil protection units were deployed to increase supplies of blood banks, water, food, tents and blankets, the palace said.

But it admitted that some of the worst-hit areas were so remote that it was impossible to reach them in the hours after the earthquake – the most crucial period for many of the injured.

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Fallen rocks had partially blocked the already poorly maintained roads to the High Atlas Mountains, the location of many of the hardest-hit areas.

Mourners during the funeral of two victims in Moulay Brahim

In the small town of Amizmiz, in a valley in the mountains about 55 kilometers south of Marrakech, many buildings have been reduced to rubble.

The local hospital is empty and deemed unsafe to enter. Patients are instead being treated in tents on the hospital grounds, but staff are overwhelmed.

A hospital official, who declined to be named, said about 100 bodies were brought there on Saturday.

“I cried because there were so many dead people, especially the young children,” he said. ‘I haven’t slept since the earthquake. None of us did that.”

Beyond the hospital, the streets are full of rubble from destroyed buildings, heavy traffic and people who have lost everything in the earthquake.

A woman wails in sorrow and is held by those around her.

There are more tents on the side of the road for people who have lost their homes, but not everyone has them.

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Dozens of people sleep on rugs on the ground in the central square.

Abdelkarim Brouri, 63, is among those whose house partially collapsed and he has nothing to protect him from the elements.

“I can’t go back home,” he said, pleading for more help. ‘We help each other. There’s no outside help coming.’

“We used blankets to make a tent,” said Ali Ait Youssef, another Amizmiz resident. “The tents distributed by the government are not enough.”

In a nearby village, crude graves covered with sticks and stones marked some of the 100 residents killed.

Gravediggers were preparing more as locals said they had not yet received official support and that they had to find and bury the dead themselves.

‘Ready to deploy’

International efforts to support the recovery still need to be scaled up. France said it was “ready” to help but was waiting for a formal request from Morocco.

“As soon as they ask for this help, it will be deployed,” President Emmanuel Macron said.

The US said that “search and rescue teams are ready to deploy… we are also prepared to release funds at the right time.”

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Turkey, which itself suffered a catastrophic earthquake in February that killed 50,000 people, had also made an offer but received no formal request.

Only Spain and Qatar have currently said they have received formal requests and would send search and rescue teams.

A BBC reporter spotted Spanish sniffer dogs in a village in the Atlas Mountains on Sunday.

Caroline Holt, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told Reuters that the next “two to three days will be critical in finding people trapped under the rubble.”

Meanwhile, relatives began burying dozens of the dead in the almost completely destroyed village of Tafeghaghte, 60 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh.

“Three of my grandchildren and their mother are dead,” said 72-year-old Omar Benhanna. ‘They are still under the rubble. It wasn’t that long ago that we played together.’

In the city of Agadir, along the southern Atlantic coast, a woman named Hakima described how she fled her village, Msouna, after losing four family members in the “catastrophic” tremors.

Neighbors pulled her from the rubble, she said, but no help had yet arrived in Msouna and nearby settlements.

“My family lost their home and their belongings – they have nothing left,” she said. “People are hungry. Children just want water. They need help.”

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