Aid tents offer glimpse of uncertain future for Morocco earthquake survivors


Survivors of the devastating earthquake that struck Morocco found themselves in long queues, stretching the length of a football field, desperately seeking temporary shelter after their homes were reduced to rubble. Yellow tents, lacking proper flooring, symbolized the uncertainty that lay ahead for these quake-affected communities.

Among those receiving shelter was 59-year-old Fatima Oumalloul, her face still bearing the scars of her home’s collapse just three days earlier. Tears welled up in her eyes as she accepted the yellow tent from soldiers in Amizmiz, a town south of Marrakesh that has become a focal point for aid distribution to the shattered Atlas mountain villages.

“I just want a home, one fit for a human,” Oumalloul declared, her voice filled with longing.

These makeshift shelters, springing up in tent cities and near the ruins of homes rendered uninhabitable, signify the arrival of much-needed aid. However, they also leave survivors grappling with the uncertainty of how long these temporary abodes will be their only refuge.

The devastating earthquake, which struck Marrakesh and its southern regions last Friday, has claimed the lives of over 2,900 people, according to the latest figures. Yet, it has also left a multitude of homes in rural areas beyond repair, where the local population lacks the financial means to rebuild, perhaps indefinitely.

However, the primary concern for many survivors was avoiding death within buildings already weakened by the earthquake. Fatima Oumalloul, who narrowly escaped being crushed under her own collapsed home, vividly recalls the terrifying moments when her neighbor nearly stepped on her buried body.

“I’m under here. Don’t step on me!” she cried out, her sobs echoing her harrowing experience.

Similarly, Fatima Benhamoud, whose house in Amizmiz is riddled with large cracks, received one of the six-person tents. She explained, “Our house is synonymous with risk. We can’t sleep inside. We have to sleep outside, so we need the tent,” noting the impending rainy season.

In front of her house, a continuous stream of people waited for tents, stretching on for hours. From the distribution site, they ventured southward along the meandering, narrow mountain roads leading toward the quake’s epicenter.

Private aid convoys, comprising individuals and associations, have become so numerous that they create traffic bottlenecks on roads initially designed for far fewer vehicles. However, these roads provide a lifeline that is conspicuously absent in remote, hard-to-reach rural areas, where some residents claim that authorities have fallen short in delivering adequate assistance.

A 15-kilometer (10-mile) drive into the mountains, past clusters of yellow tents, leads to the ravaged village of Ineghede. Although some structures still stand, much of the village resembles a chaotic maze of timber and stones, remnants of traditional-style buildings.

On Tuesday, the tents made their way up the mountain road and into Ineghede. Locals busied themselves driving stakes into the ground, raising tent poles, and then moving in their bedding and possessions.

Mohammed Amaddah, 33, pitched his tent on the dusty lot beside his damaged yet still standing home, displaying a smile and efficiency. However, his wife Latifah leaned against their house’s wall with little enthusiasm.

“I don’t want to sleep in a tent. I feel like I’m in the street,” lamented the 24-year-old mother of one. The yellow fabric flapping in the breeze was only part of her anguish. “I feel like my heart is broken. I’m afraid of the future; it’s so uncertain,” she added.

As the tent stood erect, she held her young son’s hand, gazing at the temporary shelter with a vacant expression. It was now their home. “I didn’t want it,” she whispered, encapsulating the profound sense of uncertainty that now defined their lives.g

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