May 23, 2024

With arms around each other, three boys walked through the streets of their town at the foot of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

In Amizmiz, the boys made their way through rubble, one week after an earthquake rattled their community’s homes, schools, mosques and cafes. Their possessions were buried beneath tonnes of mud and clay bricks along with an untold number of people whom the boys knew.

A little girl held her palms to her cheeks, stunned at the destruction.

The magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit Morocco on September 8, causing mass deaths in mountain villages that have collapsed in on themselves.

A magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.

Entire villages higher up in the mountains were levelled. In many, at least half of the population appears to have died.

“It felt like a bomb went off,” 34-year-old Mohamed Messi of Ouirgane said.

When mud and clay brick, the traditional materials used for construction in the region, turn to rubble, they leave fewer air pockets than more modern structures made with concrete and rebar.

The day after the quake, hundreds of residents of the mountain town of Moulay Brahim gathered for funerals, praying on rugs arranged neatly in the street before carrying blanket-covered bodies from the town’s health centre to its cemetery.

The United Nations reported that roughly 300,000 people were likely affected by the earthquake. UNICEF said that number likely included 100,000 children.

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