In quake-battered mountains, many Moroccans must fend for themselves

In quake-battered mountains, many Moroccans must fend for themselves

With debris and fallen rock blocking roads to Moroccan villages hit hardest by an earthquake, many residents began burying their dead and foraging for scarce supplies on Sunday as they waited for government aid.

That wait may be lengthy.

The most powerful quake to hit the region in a century spared neither city apartment dwellers nor those living in the mud-brick homes of the High Atlas Mountains, but many in the remote and rugged areas of Morocco have been left almost entirely to fend for themselves.

Survivors, faced with widespread electricity and telephone blackouts, said they were running low on food and water. Some bodies were being buried before they could be washed as Muslim rituals require.

The Friday night quake, whose magnitude has been put at 6.8, killed more than 2,100 people and injured more than 2,400, Moroccan state television reported on Sunday.

The Moroccan state media released footage of helicopters airlifting aid to remote areas, and King Mohammed VI said he had ordered the government to provide shelter rapidly and rebuild houses for those in distress, “particularly orphans and the vulnerable.”

But the government has been generally tight-lipped since the earthquake struck, releasing little information about rescue efforts.

In the Atlas Mountains village of Douar Tnirt on Sunday, people sleeping outside for the third night lined up for desperately needed aid, including blankets, diapers and water. But the supplies came not from the government, which villagers said had not offered any assistance since the disaster, but from a charity in Marrakech.

Abdessamad Ait Ihia, 17, who grew up nearby, rushed back to the area on Saturday from Casablanca, where he works, to check on his family. He had seen no sign of government rescue or relief workers, he said.

“We just want aid and people to help us, that’s all we want,” he said.

The first three days after an earthquake are sometimes called the “golden period” for rescuers, so this is a critical time for emergency workers trying to rescue survivors in Morocco, said Caroline Holt, a director at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

But she also stressed the need to provide people with clean water and to identify damaged buildings that still pose a danger. “We need to make sure we don’t have a disaster within a disaster,” she said in a statement.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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