Redouane is sitting in front of a large white tent, in which we can see a few cushions and mattresses. In his arms, his daughter Firdaous demands her father’s attention. Protected by a canvas, a stone’s throw from Redouane, his wife chats with her neighbors about the camp, set up in the small mountain town of Amizmiz.
All around, what was a large wasteland a little more than two weeks ago is now covered with tents and welcomes victims of the terrible earthquake that struck Morocco on September 8, causing nearly 3,000 victims.
Tents sprouted everywhere
“My house is just above, in the Derb Souika district. Like all the houses in Amizmiz, it is totally uninhabitable,” says Redouane, pointing to the devastated buildings on the nearby hill. In the city, almost every house is destroyed or too cracked to live in safely. Tents have sprung up everywhere, of all colors, installed by the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior, the army, foundations or companies.
In this small mountain town, the nights are already cold. But the rain has not yet hit the city. “It’s already autumn, and we know very well that bad weather is coming. What can we do ? We will adapt! », notes Redouane with fatalism. Above his tent, he has already installed tarpaulins to prevent water from seeping inside.
A few meters from Redouane, Najat shelters in the shade of a small warehouse still standing. “During the day, it is very hot in the tents, I can hardly stand it. And it’s cold at night…”, she describes. Married with three children, she lost her home during the earthquake and had to sleep outside for four nights before the Moroccan authorities provided her with a tent.
Often no toilets or running water
“Life is hard in the camp. There is no running water, no electricity, no toilets yet,” she describes. In the city, little by little the camps are connected to the water and electricity networks, and construction site toilets are installed. But many still have to do without it. “In fact, the most difficult thing is living in the middle of the city where you grew up and seeing it reduced to nothing,” she notes.
While the priority is rehousing, it is very difficult to know when the thousands of villages affected by the earthquake – measuring 7 on the Richter scale – will be able to benefit from reconstruction. According to a provisional assessment, 50,000 homes were partially or completely destroyed.
On Wednesday September 20, a press release from the cabinet of King Mohammed VI announced that 120 billion dirhams (11 billion euros) will be devoted to rehousing and reconstruction. A few days earlier, the Palace announced that direct aid would be distributed to affected families, particularly those who have lost their homes.
“What we hope for is simply to have a home, and to live safely with our children,” pleads Najat. She expects to spend a lot of time at this camp. “Some say we will stay there for a month, others for three months, or a year! We don’t have any visibility yet. All I know is that I don’t want to leave my city,” she says.
Others have resigned themselves to it. In one of the debris-strewn streets of Amizmiz, Mustapha and his family load a van with furniture that he was able to save. “I finally found somewhere to live!” “, he rejoices. He will settle his family in Lalla Takerkoust, a village located a few kilometers away.
“The rent is 700 dirhams (€63). It’s a bit expensive. But it’s the best solution for my children, because the school is still standing. They will be able to follow the courses with peace of mind,” he explains. In Amizmiz, the school buildings were too shaken to hold classes.
In the Al-Farahidi high school, the Moroccan army set up eighteen large khaki tents, which house the classrooms. “A temporary solution,” notes Lahoucine Ait Ibourk, the high school director. Unfortunately, the boarding school is no longer functional. Our students come from mountain villages, and they cannot afford transportation to come to class every day. We hope to find another solution, perhaps by sending the students to a region that was not affected by the earthquake,” he hopes. Around 6,000 students have already been transferred to boarding schools in Marrakech, according to authorities.
If the situation remains precarious, the official MAP agency assured on September 15 that all the inhabitants affected by the earthquake in the Haouz region, where Amizmiz is located, have been “sheltered”. The road leading from Amizmiz to the villages located very close to the epicenter has been completely cleared. In the localities crossed, the Moroccan State, associations and individuals are working to help the inhabitants.
In Tinmel, the devastation is almost total
In the village of Tinmel, located just a few kilometers from the epicenter, the devastation is almost total. The famous mosque of the cradle of the powerful Berber Almohad dynasty, built in the 12th century, is almost destroyed. It was in the process of being restored at the time of the earthquake.
“All families now sleep in tents,” assures Omar, a local official. And they have to tighten a little, because there isn’t enough. » It is difficult, however, to know whether the inhabitants of the most isolated villages, sometimes accessible only by paths, were all able to be sheltered.
In the alley of the Tinmel camp, some are washing the dishes while, in a café improvised by the men of the village, discussions are getting lively. Despite the destruction, a semblance of normal life seems to have resumed. “The authorities have already started the inventory of buildings to determine whether certain residents can return there, or whether it will be necessary to completely rebuild,” describes Omar.
In the meantime, just a stone’s throw away, imposing tents lined with wooden partitions, supplied by a company, are being erected. “The objective is to have a slightly more solid shelter in case of bad weather. » However, they will not protect against the cold. In winter, “the temperature will drop to -15°C in the village,” fears Omar.
Eleven billion euros for reconstruction
Morocco announced a budget of nearly 11 billion euros for the reconstruction, rehousing and socio-economic upgrading of areas affected by the earthquake. This envelope should benefit 4.2 million inhabitants over five years.
The September 8 earthquake left nearly 3,000 victims and more than 5,600 injured in the province of Al-Haouz south of Marrakech, made up of remote mountainous areas.
In total, 530 schools and 55 boarding schools were damaged. Classes have been suspended in around forty municipalities in the hard-hit provinces of Al-Haouz, Chichaoua and Taroudant.