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Moroccan citizens step in to help quake victims

A man walks amid the rubble in front of a damaged mosque in Moulay Brahim in the province of Al Haouz, Morocco, Sunday Sept. 10, 2023   -  
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Fernando Sanchez/AP


Ordinary citizens are stepping in to do their bit for victims of the deadly earthquake in Morocco, after some complained that the authorities were slow to act.

Maria Boujdig lives in Agadir but is originally from Tafeghaghte, one of the villages hardest hit in mountainous Al-Haouz province, the epicentre of Friday's quake.

She loaded her car with food and drove the more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) east to distribute it to needy villagers in the aftermath of the strongest earthquake ever to hit the North African country.

The quake killed at least 2,122 people, injured more than 2,400 others, and flattened entire villages.

Faced with the level of destruction, the insurance broker felt she had to act. "I got calls from families saying they had nothing to eat," Boujdig told AFP. "So I spent 10,000 dirhams ($980) on food to help in my own small way."

"The tragedy of the dead is made worse by the terrible conditions faced by the survivors," she said.

"It's catastrophic and serious to be hungry in these conditions. It was only natural for me to help."

Tafeghaghte is around 60 kilometres from the tourist centre of Marrakesh and accessible only by a narrow dusty track.

'Something to eat'

In a small warehouse spared by the quake, three villagers stored packs of water, sacks of flour, tea, canned goods and cakes that Boujdig and like-minded benefactors brought to the village.

One of them, Mohammed, who asked that his last name not be used, lost his 16-year-old daughter in the tragedy.

"Twenty-four hours after it happened, we decided to take things into our own hands because there was no one else to help us," he said.

"We made sure that everyone had something to eat."

Mustapha El-Machmoum said: "There's no sign of the authorities for the moment. We're so isolated here. Without benefactors we would starve."

The 34-year-old is barely holding it together: his mother, brother, grandfather, three cousins and the wives of two of his uncles all died in the quake.

Forty-eight hours after the earth shook, the villagers were spending their third night put in the open.

"We asked the authorities for tents yesterday, but nothing arrived," El-Machmoum told AFP.

"We're sleeping on the ground in the cold. Adults can cope with this, but not the children."

Official aid had reached the village of Tikht, near Adassil around 30 kilometres southwest of Tafeghaghte, where Moroccan authorities erected bright yellow tents for quake survivors.

A volunteer, Mohamed Belkaid, drove from Marrakesh after filling his car with packs of water to distribute in the mountain villages.

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