Morocco, three months after the earthquake: “Winter is coming and we are still in plastic tents”

A young man tightly holds an elongated wooden and metal shovel. After a cold night in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the afternoon heat and clear skies cause sweat to cascade down your face. Humming while digging. Among the mountains of rubble, with blankets, sofas, a few televisions and children’s magazines, he manages to find scraps of metal, steel or other metal that he can keep for sale. Three months ago, the remote village of Imi Nthala was destroyed by the worst earthquake in Moroccan history. The silence of his mountains destroyed hope. All that was left was a sweet hum.

At the bottom of the land separating one side of the village from the other, both collapsed, a group of women shelter in the shadows of the few buildings that remain. They exchange recipes and preview the feast that accompanies them as they eat. A few meters away, dozens of blue and yellow tents are strategically placed on the edge of a cliff.

One more does not fit. “For now, this is where we have to live,” said Rashida, one of the earthquake survivors. A few scars and cuts on her fingers and a bandaged wrist remind her of the worst of the tremors. “It was very strong. We still have fear in our bodies,” he adds.

In mid-November, more than 3,300 Moroccan families with homes partially damaged by the earthquake began receiving 80,000 dirhams in compensation, equivalent to 7,000 euros. Financial assistance from the Moroccan government to rebuild their homes.

On the other hand, owners of completely destroyed houses will have to wait. The Moroccan government estimates the compensation at 140,000 dirhams, nearly 13,000 euros, which it has yet to begin distributing. According to a government report, 35% of the total number of villages in the southern provinces of Marrakesh, Al Hauz, Chichoua, Taroudant, Ouarzazate and Azilal reported damage to buildings.

Green Esplanade welcomes you in Tafeghte. Some olive trees, blooming and healthy, make a grateful shade. The sun is shining. Not even a cloud. Shamia shrugs. How long will we have to wait? “Even God doesn’t know,” he replies. Shamia lives alone in one of the thousands of blue tents that dot the Atlas landscape for three months. In sunny hours, your house is an oven. At night, 20 cm thick blankets are not enough. But the worst is the rain, he says. Shamia has no home, but maintains hospitality. “I should invite you to tea,” suggests the septuagenarian.

“We’re on the brink of winter and we’re still in these heavy plastic tents,” says Shamia. Although the temperatures are not too cold at night in October and November, the beginning of the year is a time of cold, wind and rain in the region.

Three months after the earthquake, international aid continues to arrive. From Spain, for example, the NGO Firefighters Without Borders conducted a second expedition with material aid such as food kits, water tanks and solar lights for tents.

Tafegaghte, 24 kilometers away from the epicenter of the earthquake, was one of the most critical points in the hours following the tremors. None of the approximately 120 houses are standing, and the death toll has exceeded 150 people, and more than 200 have been injured. Most of the dead lie in the improvised cemetery, which has doubled since the earthquake on September 8 last year.

A mountain of white stones more than five meters high stands out among the landscape of the ruins of houses and buildings collapsed during the earthquake in Tinmel. Four young men analyze each remnant of the ruins stone by stone. Some fall to another mountain on the right. A few steps behind the young people, the minaret of the Tinmel mosque and several walls of the religious temple collapsed.

The Tinmel Mosque dates back to the 12th century, specifically it was built in 1148 by the Almohad dynasty, a year after the capture of Marrakesh. This hidden place in the High Atlas Mountains was one of the starting points of the Almohad military campaign against the Almoravid dynasty. Along with the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Tinmel was one of only two mosques in Morocco open to non-Muslims.

Nine months ago, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs started a project to restore the Tinmel Mosque, which included opening its own museum on the cultural building. After the earthquake, the economic effort will be greater.

“On the night of the earthquake, four foreign couples lived in the hostel. Since then, no one has returned,” says one of the managers of several hostels at Tizi n’Test, one of the highest points of the Moroccan Atlas.

A large terrace on the first floor of the building, which is fortunately standing, opens up unique views towards the Sous Massa region. “We are losing money. Tourists stop only to drink tea or eat tagine, we cannot allow people to sleep inside the building. We cannot guarantee that it is in good condition,” says the manager.

The reality is different in other cities affected by the earthquake, which are indispensable meccas for Moroccan tourism. This is the case of Marrakesh. The flow of tourists there returned to normal a few days after the earthquake. According to the latest data from the Moroccan Tourism Office, the country received 960,000 international travelers in September 2023, 8.5% more than the same month in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, between January and September, international travel to Morocco increased by 44% compared to the same period in 2019.

Source: El Diario

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