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

A Tragic Event Unfolds: A Village Disappears Amidst Morocco's Devastating Earthquake
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  • “The village is uninhabitable,” declares a resident of Tikht, a small village near the epicenter of the recent earthquake in Morocco.
  • A significant portion of the village was constructed using traditional materials and techniques that were ill-equipped to withstand an earthquake.
  • The government is providing support, but given the village’s existing financial struggles, the devastation could potentially be the final blow for many residents.

It was a sensitive task for the searchers to extract the woman’s lifeless body from the ruins of a village that virtually ceased to exist due to Morocco’s most deadly earthquake in over sixty years.

Her fiancé, Omar Ait Mbarek, a 25-year-old man, observed the excavation on Sunday with tear-filled, bloodshot eyes, surrounded by spectators just kilometers away from the earthquake’s epicenter in the Atlas Mountains.

He was on the phone with her when the tremors began late on Friday he heard kitchen utensils crashing onto the floor before the call abruptly ended. He knew she was gone.

“What can I say? I’m devastated,” he told AFP after Mina Ait Bihi, who was about to become his wife, was carried away in blankets to a makeshift cemetery where 68 others were already laid to rest.

The men who diligently used their hands to remove the dirt covering her body also found her phone and handed it to the grieving man.

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

All around him, the village of Tikht, which once housed at least 100 families, lay in ruins with a jumble of timber, fragments of masonry, and scattered belongings like broken plates, shoes, and the occasional intricately patterned rug.

“Life is over here,” said Mohssin Aksum, a 33-year-old man who had family members residing in the small settlement. “The village is lifeless.”

Homes constructed using traditional methods

Similar to many other severely affected villages, Tikht was a small rural community where numerous buildings were constructed using a traditional combination of stone, timber, and mud-based mortar.

Dozens of residents, grieving relatives, and soldiers gathered amidst the ruins. Several individuals claimed to have no recollection of any past earthquakes in the area.

“It was not something people here considered when building their homes,” said Abdelrahman Edjal, a 23-year-old student who lost most of his family in the catastrophe.

As he sat on a boulder amidst the rubble, under the strikingly blue sky and surrounded by mountains, the quality of the building materials was not his primary concern.

He had gone out for a walk after dinner when the shaking commenced and witnessed people attempting to flee from their collapsing houses.

He managed to rescue his own father from the wreckage of their family home, but his injuries were too severe. His father passed away with his son by his side.

Twisted steel reinforcement rods protruded from the debris in Tikht, indicating the utilization of more modern construction techniques in the local structures.

Life was already challenging in the region, which is approximately a two-hour drive away from the job opportunities provided by Marrakesh’s thriving tourism industry.

‘A state of utter destitution’

Aksum, who has ancestral ties to the area but resides in Rabat, stated that the earthquake has deprived people of the little they had.

As he spoke, he gestured to his nose and mentioned that the livestock owned by locals was now buried beneath the debris and starting to decompose.

“Now, people have less than nothing,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, two young men with dust-streaked clothing sat on boulders and sobbed silently without uttering a word.

By Sunday, yellow tents providing emergency shelter could be seen along the road leading into town.

Civil protection service members from the government transported camp beds from a military-type truck 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 basic necessities such as shelter, food, and water.

Several individuals expressed shock over their losses and the scale of the destruction, making it difficult for them to determine their next steps with certainty.

However, Omar Ait Mbarek declared that he was certain of one thing.

“I will rebuild my house,” he stated, still clutching his late fiancée’s phone, before walking away into the debris.