Moroccans mourned the victims of Sunday’s devastating earthquake, which killed more than 2,000 people, as rescue teams found survivors trapped in the rubble of flattened villages.
At least 2,012 people were killed and more than 2,059 injured in the country’s worst earthquake ever, according to the latest official figures.
Friday’s 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck 72 kilometers (5 miles) southwest of the tourist center of Marrakech, destroying entire villages in rural areas.
“I lost everything,” said Lahcen, a resident of the mountain village of Moulay Brahim, whose wife and four children were killed.
Rescue workers found the bodies of Lahcen’s three daughters in the ruins of the previous home, but still did not find the bodies of his wife and son. “Now I can do nothing, I just want to leave the world and mourn.”
Soldiers and rescue services have been trying to reach remote mountain villages, where victims are still feared to be trapped.
The province of Al-Haouz, where the epicenter was located, had the highest number of dead (1,293), followed by the province of Taroudant with
– The first funeral –
Bouchra, another resident of Moulay Brahim, dried tears with her scarf as she watched men dig graves to bury the victims.
“My cousin’s grandchildren are dead,” he said aloud.
“I saw the devastation of the earthquake live and I’m still shaking. It’s like a fireball that has consumed everything in its path,” he said.
“Everyone here has lost a family, whether in our village or elsewhere in the region,” he added.
Fatema Satir, a resident of Marrakech, told AFP that many were sleeping on the streets for fear that their houses would collapse.
“Look where all these people sleep. We can’t be helped, our houses are broken, some destroyed, like my daughter’s house, which was destroyed. We are in a chaotic situation.”
Authorities declared three days of national mourning, and several countries, including Israel, France, Spain, Italy and the United States, offered aid.
Neighboring Algeria, which has rocky relations with Morocco, opened airspace closed for two years to flights carrying humanitarian aid and the wounded.
– “Helping years” –
The Red Cross warned that it could take years to repair the damage.
“This is not about a week or two… We believe the response will take months, if not years,” Hossam Elsharkawi, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement.
The quake almost completely destroyed the village of Tafeghaghte, 60 kilometers southwest of Marrakech, with the epicenter only about 50 kilometers away, an AFP team said, with buildings still standing. “My three grandchildren and their mother are dead,” said Omar Benhanna, 72.
“They’re still under the trash. It wasn’t that long ago that we played together.”
Residents were burying around 70 victims in a nearby cemetery on Saturday when the funeral service was interrupted by shouts and screams.
– The authorities are still being mobilized to accelerate rescue operations and evacuate the injured, the Ministry of the Interior announced on Saturday evening.
The earthquake was also felt in the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca, Agadir and Essaouira, where many panicked residents took to the streets in the middle of the night, fearing that their homes would collapse.
The earthquake is the deadliest in Morocco since the 1960 earthquake that devastated Agadir, killing more than 12,000 people, or about a third of the city’s population at the time.