Illuminated by the lights of a small backhoe, a firefighter emerges from the small cave left by the rubble of the house. Dozens of neighbors, all men, witness the scene, oblivious to the danger of the leaning walls of the surrounding buildings. As soon as he stands up, the rescuer addresses one of his companions. “Aim, it’s 22.15”. 23 hours and four minutes have passed since the ground shook in Mulay Brahim (8,000 inhabitants) and the rescue teams, accompanied by dozens of volunteers, have just found Amina’s body.
The 35-year-old woman died under the walls of her house along with her four children, but the only bodies that remained to be found on Saturday night under this mass of stones, bricks and rebar were hers and that of her youngest son. , three years old. One hundred meters up the slope, Amina’s mother along with other women wait for news of Amina and her grandson.
“It was only five minutes. The earth shook and suddenly everything had collapsed,” says Husein Aitzagut at the door of his home, where he lives with his wife, Rachida, his three-year-old son, Mohamed, his father and two her sisters in law Those five minutes that Hussein talks about sank dozens of homes and left huge cracks and serious structural damage in many others that, in all likelihood, will force them to be demolished if they do not fall on their own first. Among the remains, throughout Saturday, a total of 28 bodies were found that, as they appeared, were stored in the municipal health center, while the 45 wounded registered were transferred to Marrakesh, according to the soldiers coordinating the jobs.
Husein Aitzagut poses among the ruins of Mulay Brahim. Moeh Atitar
Following the pandemic, religious tourism had returned to Mulay Brahim. This town hanging on a hill at the foot of the Atlas, at 1,300 meters above sea level and just 50 kilometers from Marrakech, is a famous pilgrimage site. The Muslim saint of the same name is buried there and thousands of people from all over Morocco visit his mausoleum every year to perform rituals in his honor and thank him for the favor of his promises: getting a job, getting married, having children, recovering after an illness. .. All the paraphernalia around the saint, the souvenirs and objects to venerate him, the room rental accommodations are, along with agriculture, what feeds the population. The neighbors believe that now, with everything in ruins, it will take time for people to return.
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Walking through its narrow streets is a dangerous gymkhana that forces you to avoid huge blocks of brick and cement, beams, stones, broken pipes and cables hanging from their poles. All of this under walls and balconies with impossible overhangs on the verge of collapsing. In the few squares and open places that the place has, enormous tents upholstered with carpets have been built in which hundreds of women and children are crowded while the men, who travel around the place from one place to another, strive to help them and provide them with food. food and water.
Military, firefighters and health workers work in the rescue and treatment of the wounded. But the distribution of food and drink is carried out by local associations, such as El Encuentro, which in other circumstances is dedicated to organizing sports, cultural and social activities for residents. Its president, Abdullah Ait-Malik, explains how they organize themselves in a kind of self-management in which the men of the town participate. “First we put up the tents for the women and children. In each of them there is a person in charge who is in charge of transferring what they need to us and we supply it to them. Then the women are in charge of cooking for everyone.”
Bottles of water, flour, pasta, milk and cookies
He tells it in a place full of bottles of mineral water, flour, pasta, milk and cookies donated by other groups and people who want to help. “The vegetables have just arrived and tomorrow we expect the bread, meat and chicken to arrive,” adds Abdullah from the door of the organization’s warehouse, whose façade has also collapsed. For now, supplying the town with large trucks is complicated due to the huge stones up to two meters high that have fallen on the winding road that connects the town with Marrakech, 50 kilometers below.
The cold comes with the night and, in the tents, the children, crowded together, cling to their mothers covered with blankets, while the older women stir huge pots over wood fires full of pasta for dinner. “The authorities have forced many people not to return to their homes and settle here due to the risk of new collapses, but many other people have wanted to settle on the streets because they are afraid that the earthquake will happen again,” explains Husein, who , just in case, he has taken all his belongings out into the street. Families that do not fit in the tents have settled with their mattresses in the fields that surround the town.
Among the remains of Amina’s house, the neighbors strive to help the firefighters remove her body and continue looking for their son’s. Some do not hesitate to put themselves in danger to go into the rubble with the lights of their cell phones that allow them to see better. Her husband, the only survivor of her family as he was in charge of his business during the earthquake, contemplates the scene silently, crouching down. “She is in shock; The firefighters had to hold him several times throughout the day so that he did not start digging with his own hands,” explains Yusef Ait, one of his relatives who has traveled from Marrakech to lend a hand. He now he will only be able to comfort him.
One of the tents located in the square of the Mulay Brahim mosque, where women and children spend the night.Moeh Aitar
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