Earthquake in Morocco: Mountains of stone, rubble and pain

While the cleanup begins in Marrakech after the severe earthquake, many villagers in Morocco are still waiting for help and medical care. / Earthquake in Morocco

Sunday morning, Djemaa El Fna – the famous large open square in Marrakech where food stalls, vendors and snake charmers entertain day and night visitors.

Here too you can see clear traces of the earthquake. The red historic wall is partially broken, long cracks run through the red buildings, excavators are clearing away rubble. At the same time, tourists sit in cafés or are guided through the old town in groups. Marrakech’s almost only source of economic activity, tourism, is still running.

Kamil Drzisga speaks to us in front of a small mosque whose minaret has completely collapsed when he sees the microphone. Kamil is 28 years old, from Limburg, and he is in the city with a friend for a few days. He was in his hotel in the labyrinthine old town when the earthquake struck on Friday evening.

“When it started, we thought a plane was coming down somehow,” says Drzisga. “And then we ran into the street. It was all very panicked.” You could see that people were “still working with everything that happened here.” Last night, a lot of people slept outside, says the Limburger. Shops were partially trying to reopen, but it would certainly be a few more days before some degree of normalcy returned.

Earthquake surprised many in their sleep

Change of location: We’re going to the mountains. There, large yellow excavators remove massive boulders from the narrow streets that wind through ravines. Near here, Morocco’s largest mountain – Toubkal – rises more than 4,000 meters high. The village of Tansghart is about 50 kilometers from Marrakech. About 300 people live here. An alarming number of houses are in rubble and dust. One of the residents, Mountasir Itri, wants to show his house – or what’s left of it.

Mountasir repeatedly walks past villagers: hugs – then expressions of condolence follow. The earthquake here cost nine lives. Including a whole family. Like many here, the earthquake surprised the family while they were sleeping; their house collapsed on top of them. The parents and their three children were buried on Sunday morning.

Hardly any medical care in mountain villages

The women of Tansghart have joined forces in a free space and are trying to cook from what little they have left. They only go back to their houses to get what they need. Everyone sleeps outside at night. This is still possible because it is hot during the day and pleasantly cool in the evening.

There is no longer any water or electricity in the village. The residents have set up makeshift tents, with mattresses, pillows and blankets lying here and there. Small children play on it. “We lost everything,” says one woman. She reports on sick children and old people with diabetes who lack insulin and medication. She only has milk for her children to eat. So far no doctor has come to the village – one child has already died.

“The earthquake destroyed everything in seconds”

Mountasir stands in front of the rubble of his house. Mountains of stone, rubble – gray on gray. He built right next to his father’s small, old house – a rammed earth building. Three floors, the view over the green gorge should delight family and friends. “For years I had the big dream of building it. I’ve been building it for ten years. Bit by bit with the help of my family,” he says. They had planned to live there together. “Ten years – and then the earthquake comes and destroys everything in seconds and makes us homeless. Now we sleep on the ground.”

Mountasir’s family was unhurt in the earthquake. Others have had it much worse, he says. “It’s just a house.” He shakes his head before his voice fails.

The father’s house is still standing. Mountasir’s sister Ikram opens the black metal gate. She invites you into the small courtyard in front of her father’s house. She asks us whether we want to have tea with them before we leave. We are perplexed, but we don’t reject it. The house has huge cracks inside. Among the rubble, Ikram prepares mint tea in a small metal pot. We sit on bast mats, houses and lives lie in ruins around us.


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