One community’s search for its last victim

Within the village of Ouirgane within the Atlas Mountains, residents collect on piles of particles across the dwelling of a mom and daughter buried beneath.

Like many mountain communities, Ouirgane suffered main losses within the earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday evening.

Buildings have been destroyed and most residents are actually both sleeping in tents or have left.

Police and rescue employees inform us greater than 30 individuals died right here. The cemetery is dotted with new graves lined in branches.

For now, everybody is concentrated on the 2 lacking ladies: Fatima and Hajar.

They lived on the bottom flooring of a three-storey constructing within the centre of the village.

It now tilts to at least one facet and is surrounded by piles of rubble, and small traces of lives now destroyed: a teapot, a baby’s Disney rucksack, a floral scarf.

Crowds collect across the constructing and pray for excellent news, as rescue employees use a sniffer canine to seek for indicators of life.

Residents inform us they won’t depart till Fatima and Hajar are discovered, useless or alive.

“In our tradition, we eat from the identical plate. We share meals and we share plates. We’re a household,” one man says, as a crowd round him nod in settlement.

“They’re our sisters,” says one other.

Among the many crowd is Fatima’s sister-in-law Khadija, who lived within the high two flooring of the constructing. She was in Marrakesh when the earthquake struck.

She tells us that Fatima’s husband was pulled from the particles however later died, whereas her younger son is in hospital after spending hours trapped within the rubble.

She says Fatima and Hajar, 40 and 17, had the “similar nature”, describing them as “peaceable” individuals.

“Fatima by no means argued with anybody, or had issues with anybody,” she tells me. “Hajar would preserve to herself. She was shy. She was learning and was among the many high college students.”

However hopes of discovering them alive are slim, and fade all through the day.

Within the late afternoon, a physique is discovered.

Rescue employees transfer slowly and thoroughly as they take the physique out of the rubble and onto an orange stretcher, masking it with blankets.

It’s Hajar, they are saying.

They raise the stretcher and carry it by the streets in the direction of a clearing in entrance of the native cemetery. The crowds observe solemnly behind.

After the physique is washed, the stretcher is positioned on the bottom, and the boys file in rows behind it. After which they pray.

After the burial, the crowds file again to the constructing, ready for information on Fatima.

Nobody we converse to now has any hope of discovering her alive, however they are saying it is necessary that her physique is recovered.

“Everybody underground right here has been introduced out – alive or useless. Fatima is the one one left,” one man says.

“I can not eat, I can not sleep, I can not drink till we take Fatima from underground.”

“The entire village must get her physique out. It must occur right this moment, not tomorrow,” one other man says as he walks again from the cemetery.

Fatima’s neighbour Mentioned echoes this. “We will not do something till we get her physique out. Please God, let it’s right this moment.”

Among the many crowds is rescue employee Mohamed Khoutari, who’s taking a brief break after days of looking out by the rubble.

“After we began we thought possibly they might be alive however with time we’ve got realised it is not doable,” he tells me. “There are not any indicators of life – no motion, no sound.”

However he says the employees should put the identical effort into retrieving our bodies as discovering survivors.

“I can’t transfer from right here till we discover Fatima,” he says.

As evening falls, blankets are handed as much as the search groups, and in low murmurs among the many crowd, phrase spreads that Fatima’s physique has been discovered.

She is moved onto a stretcher because the Muslim name to prayer rings out by the mountains. Khadija sobs, and is supported by members of the family.

Residents once more observe the stretcher by the streets in the direction of the cemetery.

When the burial is over, they return to makeshift tents, and people who have travelled from exterior to assist get of their vehicles and drive away.

The streets fall quiet.

However questions linger over how Ouirgane and different stricken communities can transfer ahead.

“I by no means imagined that I might see my neighbours pulled from the bottom like this,” Mentioned says.

“The issue now’s the way forward for this area. What’s going to the way forward for our village and the individuals right here be?”

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