Following a devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Morocco, rescue efforts race against time to search for survivors and provide aid to the affected villages, with nearly 3,000 lives lost and countless displaced.
It has been five days since Morocco was struck with a fatal 6.8 magnitude earthquake, the deadliest in a century. The catastrophic event claimed nearly 3,000 lives and displaced thousands in the North African country.
Located nearly three hours away from the city of Marrakesh, villages in the Atlas Mountains suffered the most significant damage. Amid the destruction, the villages can hardly be identified and vehicles attempting to get there have to drive through a narrow and rocky path.
The villages once bustled with old houses and thousands of residents, away from the busy Moroccan cities. But within a split second, the earthquake drastically shifted the lives of Anougal’s residents in the mountains.
After enjoying a simple life under a safe roof, they are now living under fragile tents, not knowing when they will ever be able to live in a house – especially with the winter season approaching.
After a long journey to the Anougal village high up in the mountains, rescuers from Qatar’s Lekhwiya, Spain, the United Kingdom and other foreign teams managed to enter the area.
Walking through the wreckage is a difficult task, with blocks of broken walls and destroyed furniture blocking the alleyways.
Almost in every area, rescue teams are tirelessly trying to navigate through the destruction, breaking every block in hopes of finding victims or lucky survivors. Civilians have also come in to assist rescuers with shovels and hammers.
Families of victims and friends of those who went missing in the aftermath of the earthquake stood for four consecutive days to learn the fate of their loved ones.
Torn between fragile hope and despair, the families had been using their hands to remove the rubble as they scavenged for survivors.
Next to the Moroccan responders, one man stood helplessly with both arms extended as he prayed to find his mother. Just three blocks away, another man stood in front of his paternal aunt’s home, waiting for Moroccan volunteers and rescue teams to finally get her out of the debris.
Speaking to Doha News with a shaking voice and teary eyes, the man repeated the words: “My aunt, my aunt is in there.”
His aunt would be the next earthquake victim out of his family, after losing his 14-year-old daughter.
All the way towards the end of one of the mountains in the village, Qatar’s Lekwhiya team and Moroccan rescuers find another woman’s body.
“We’re now working at this site where a woman is suspected to be [trapped]. We’ve been working for almost two hours. We’ve been carrying out search operations at another location since the morning before returning to this place,” Captain Mohammed Al-Nuaimi from Lekhwiya told Doha News during the search process.
Three hours later, rescuers managed to get the woman’s lifeless body out in a body bag. As the Qatari and Moroccan team walked their way out with the body, onlookers started chanting prayers as women wailed in agony at the painful sight.
The dead woman was eventually buried in an empty land near the village’s entrance. A man, believed to be her husband or son, had sprinted to the burial, where he collapsed as villagers tried to lift him up.
On the opposite side of the burial ground, a large team of Moroccan volunteers arrived with trucks loaded with food supplies while making sandwiches for the families who were made homeless by the earthquake.
Loubna, a volunteer and member of a construction company, had come all the way from Marrakesh to assess the situation and the families’ needs while providing them with temporary tents as they worked on rebuilding their homes.
“The moment we arrived, the residents’ situation was very, very dire. There were nearly 60 people under the rubble. For the past three days, we’ve tried to get people out of the broken houses,” Loubna told Doha News.
The volunteer is a witness to the daily extraction of bodies, describing the scenes as “deeply saddening”.
“The situation is very, very sad, but today I am proud of being Moroccan because all Moroccans have worked hand-in-hand. There was no difference between the rich and poor,” a hopeful Loubna said.
For now, rescue operations are expected to take place in the coming days as villagers in the Atlas Mountains pray for a miracle in the devastation.