Moroccan man finds childhood home destroyed by quake

By Alexander Cornwell

TINMEL, Morocco (Reuters) – Said Hartattouch was at work in Marrakech when the 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck.

The moment the earth began to shake, he rushed to his family’s village more than 100 km (60 miles) away in the High Atlas Mountains, anxious to get to his mother and two sisters.

When he arrived several hours later, his childhood home lay in ruins.

Hartattouch, 34, speaking outside the rubble of the earth-and-straw house, said that in the days following the quake he had sometimes felt like he was in a horrible dream.

“But then you wake up the day after and you find reality,” he said.

Hartattouch’s mother and sisters survived Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in over six decades. Fifteen other people from the close community of about 100 people died, including his uncle who was buried by a collapsing wall after he fled his home, and a close family friend who lived next door.

The village of Tinmel lies in a state of devastation. The homes have been crushed and the historic 12th-century mosque that sits at the end of the village is now a ruin.

“Man, it is something that I cannot explain,” Hartattouch said, who is among many across the High Atlas Mountains who have lost their loved ones and their homes.

Recounting his return to the village, delayed due to a road blocked by a landslide, Hartattouch described a scramble inside his destroyed family home to gather blankets and his mother’s insulin.

With nowhere to go, the villagers have slept out in the open since the earthquake struck on Friday. Residents say the village has received little government help and instead relied on charitable donations. A mother of a 15-day-old baby boy said the child needed milk formula and medicine.

There is an urgent need for tents to protect the people from the dropping temperatures at night.

“It is the beginning of the cold weather … the first day was very tough,” Hartattouch said.

Some residents criticised the government’s relief efforts, saying that while other communities had received assistance they have had to fend for themselves, including searching for survivors and pulling bodies out of the rubble.

Hartattouch said it was understandable why some communities were receiving state assistance when others weren’t, citing the enormity of the destruction that has killed more than 2,800 people.

“The problem for Atlas Mountains is that it is big,” he said. “It’s not possible to help everyone.”

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Stephen Coates)