“When The Roof Fell On Us…”: Morocco Quake Survivors Recall Pain, Loss

"I saw the elder one, lifeless. I quickly realised that stones had landed on the top of his body."

Himalaya Times
Read Time = 3 mins

After cheating death himself and escaping the rubble, Abdellah Aeet Bihi found his youngest son, aged four, alive but trapped after Morocco's earthquake.

The boy was still able to talk from under the rubble of their collapsed house.

"But I couldn't get to him," Bihi, 39, recalled in their village of Talat Nyacoub, destroyed by the Friday night quake.

On Monday the body of his son was finally freed, Bihi said, breaking into sobs.

The little one had died near his elder brother, aged 12.

"I saw the elder one, lifeless. I quickly realised that stones had landed on the top of his body."

Bihi, 39, said he had been hoping for a peaceful sleep "when the roof fell on top of us".

An amputee, Bihi uses a prosthesis on his left arm but lost it during the chaos.

Somehow, with help from neighbours, "I was able to extract my 10-year-old daughter and my wife" from the debris.

His eldest child, 14, also got out. "I don't know how," he recalled.

Along with his two boys, Bihi's parents also died in the quake which killed around 2,900 people.

"My tears don't dry. I want them to stop but the pain is stronger than anything," he said. His wife looked at him with silent sadness and wept.

What remains of the family has taken refuge at the entrance to their remote village in the Atlas mountains near the quake epicentre, south of Marrakesh.

Forever changed
Under olive trees, they share a rug with the family of Latifa Aeet Bizli.

The roof of her house also collapsed in the earthquake, but Bizli was able to save her youngsters, aged three, seven and 10, as well as her parents-in-law.

"Luckily we were upstairs. I got hold of my children and was able to get them out through a hole," recalled Bizli, whose husband was in another village at the time, and also survived.

"I went back while the earth was still shaking to get my parents-in-law out."

With the family safely outside, she took in the extent of the shocking devastation around her. All the homes were destroyed, including her sister's.

"She died with her husband and her two children. I couldn't do anything for her and am eaten up by remorse because of it. I still can't accept that they are no longer here," said Bizli, 30.

"Life will never be the same for us," she said, grateful that aid had arrived to help them survive in what was already a deprived village.

In a spirit of solidarity after the quake, many ordinary Moroccans have stepped in to deliver medicine, food, quilts and mattresses to stricken villages, as some people complained authorities were slow to act.

Another resident of Talat Nyacoub, Rachida Aeet Malek, feels lucky to be alive after spending six hours in the rubble of her home.

When the quake struck she was upstairs along with her two children, mother and two sisters -- one of them pregnant.

Only her nephew was downstairs, said Malek, who is in her 20s.

"Three of our neighbours got us out from under the debris," she said.

Malek was the last to be freed, she said, lying under a tree with her children.

Her sisters were hospitalised but she is unhurt, physically.

"I am still in shock. I can't describe the pain inside me since this drama. We came back from the edge of death."

Her nephew didn't.

Despite efforts to free his body, it remains trapped under the debris.

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