A Tragic Event Unfolds: A Village Disappears Amidst Morocco’s Devastating Earthquake

A Tragic Event Unfolds: A Village Disappears Amidst Morocco's Devastating Earthquake
  • “The village is no longer inhabitable,” states a resident of Tikht, a small village near the epicenter of the recent earthquake in Morocco.
  • Many of the buildings in the village were constructed using traditional materials and methods that were not suitable for withstanding an earthquake.
  • The government is providing assistance, but considering the village’s existing financial struggles, the devastation may be overwhelming for many.

The search and rescue team faced a challenging task of recovering a woman’s body from the ruins of Tikht, a village that essentially no longer exists following Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in over sixty years.

Her fiancé, Omar Ait Mbarek, aged 25, watched the painstaking efforts on Sunday, his eyes filled with tears, surrounded by bystanders just kilometers away from the quake’s epicenter in the Atlas Mountains.

He was on a call with her when the tremors began late Friday, and he heard the sound of kitchen utensils crashing to the ground before the line abruptly disconnected. He knew she was gone.

“What can I say? I am deeply wounded,” he told AFP after Mina Ait Bihi, who was only weeks away from becoming his wife, was carried to a makeshift cemetery along with the other 68 victims.

Alongside her lifeless body, the searchers also discovered her phone, which they handed over to the grieving fiancé.

A man stands amidst the wreckage of a house in the village of Tikht, near Adassil, on 10th September 2023, two days after a devastating earthquake struck the country. (Photo by Fethi Belaid / AFP)

All around him, Tikht village, which was home to over 100 families, was reduced to a chaotic scene of timber, rubble, broken ceramics, shoes, and occasional intricately patterned rugs.

“Life is now over here,” said Mohssin Aksum, aged 33, who had relatives residing in the tiny settlement. “The village is no longer viable.”

Traditional Construction

Similar to many other severely affected villages, Tikht comprised mainly of rural dwellings constructed using a combination of stone, timber, and mud mortar, following traditional building techniques.

Dozens of residents, mourning their loved ones, and soldiers were gathered amongst the ruins. Several of them had no recollection of any previous earthquakes in the region.

“The thought of earthquakes never crossed our minds when we built our houses,” said Abdelrahman Edjal, a 23-year-old student who lost most of his family in the disaster.

As he sat on a boulder amidst the debris, under the strikingly blue sky and surrounded by mountains, Edjal’s primary concern was not the quality of the construction materials.

He had ventured out for a walk after dinner when the trembling commenced, witnessing people desperately trying to escape their collapsing homes.

Edjal managed to rescue his father from the ruins of their family home, but the injuries were too grave. His father tragically passed away in his son’s presence.

Twisted steel reinforcement rods jutted out from the rubble in Tikht, indicating the implementation of more contemporary building techniques in some of the local structures.

Daily life was already challenging in the area, which is situated approximately two hours away from the employment prospects offered by Marrakesh’s thriving tourist industry.

‘Left with Nothing’

Aksum, who has hometown ties but resides in Rabat, expressed how the earthquake has stripped away the little that people possessed.

As he spoke, gesturing to his nose, Aksum mentioned that the livestock owned by the locals was now buried under the debris, starting to decay.

“Now, people are left with less than nothing,” he sorrowfully remarked.

While he shared his sentiments, two young men, their clothes streaked with the white dust from the ruins, sat on boulders and wept silently.

By Sunday, yellow tents providing emergency shelter were visible along the road leading into town.

Members of the government’s civil protection service were unloading camp beds from a military truck and transporting them towards the tents.

Non-profit organizations were also present in the area, assessing the needs of the remaining residents in villages like Tikht, which extend beyond the obvious requirements of shelter, food, and water.

Many people were still in shock from their losses and the scale of the destruction, unable to decisively plan their next steps.

However, Omar Ait Mbarek declared one thing with conviction.

“I will rebuild my house,” he said, clutching his late fiancée’s dusty phone, before walking away amidst the debris.