Morocco Earthquake: ‘Who Needs Help’

  • By Nick Peake
  • BBC News, Ait Hmid

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Umar: ‘I lost my children, my house, everything I owned’

In Algo, a small village high in the Atlas Mountains, screams came from beneath the rubble in the terrifying moments after the earthquake.

But hours passed and the screams became silent as no special rescue team appeared to help the desperate efforts of the villagers.

Three days later, Spanish firefighters, the first professional teams to reach the devastated community, believed time was not running out.

As they trudged through cavernous streets and crumbling arches, their experience told them there was no hope.

The harsh reality was reinforced by their dogs’ reactions. Igor and Teddy were trained to bark when they saw signs of life.

The silence was deafening.

“There’s nothing we can do here,” said Juan Lopez, a firefighter responding to his second quake.

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The Spanish Saviors

First, his team returned to Turkey after the devastating earthquake there in February. A remarkable international response has helped bring some incredible moments trapped beneath the rubble, even days later.

“Here in Morocco, the houses are built of rock. In Turkey they are made of steel and are very strong,” Mr Lopez said.

“We won’t see anyone here,” he said, his colleagues slowly nodding their heads.

We followed the group as they moved on to the next village.

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Remains of Ait Hmid

It is hard to fathom that 28 people lived in this brick and stone mound. Only seven survived.

As we headed over the ruins, Omar Ait Mahdi looked out blankly across the valley.

Behind him 20 men were working with pickaxes, shovels and hands.

Umar’s wife was in the hospital. He still hasn’t found two daughters, Hananeh, 17, and Khadijah, 14.

Suddenly there was an explosion and the prayer broke out.

Finally the bodies of the girls were found.

As the blankets and a stretcher made their way to the top of the debris, Omar told us in a quiet voice that he wanted to send a message.

“I want people to help me. I want the world to help me. I lost my children, my house, everything I own,” he said.

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Aklo village

Moroccan authorities are under pressure to accept aid from several countries. So far only four countries have taken up aid, with others, including France and Germany, rejected.

Hananeh and Khadija’s uncle Hamid came to console, but he himself broke down in tears.

“We need help badly. We need it from whoever will give it,” Hameed said.

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