Nearly 3,000 people are reported to have died in the earthquake that hit Morocco on Friday, but the death toll continues to rise as search and rescue teams sift through mountains of rubble.
Hopes of finding more survivors are fading as blocked roads prevent access to the worst affected areas in remote villages in rural and mountainous areas.
Morocco has far exceeded the 72-hour period in which rescues are considered most likely, although in some cases survivors are found well beyond that period.
The death toll now stands at 2,901, Morocco’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday, and 5,530 have been injured in the country’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 and its most powerful since 1900.
Vehicles packed with supplies inched along winding mountain roads to deliver desperately needed food and tents to survivors. Search teams were in some places still scouring the rubble for the living.
In some of the most remote places, there was still little sign of outside help. Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the village of Imi N’Tala, said the situation is dire.
“The town is completely razed and devastated. The stench of death is everywhere. There are still at least 40 bodies under the rubble,” Dekker said.
“Huge pieces of mountain fell and crashed into these villages. Entire families have been wiped out.
“A man was pointing at his house. There was a white door that was left standing, and he told us that that was the door to his house. She started crying at how he ran out the door and everything collapsed around her. She lost his children and his wife. He was screaming because he saw his wife’s abaya under her rubble. He was heartbreaking.
“The problem is access to these places. There are narrow and winding roads. There are still many places they have not been able to reach.”
So far, search and rescue teams from Qatar, the United Kingdom, Spain and the United Arab Emirates have been operating on the ground alongside Moroccan emergency teams, military and other officials.
The United Nations and the United States have also sent teams of disaster and emergency experts to help assess damage and coordinate the response.
Abdel Wahed Chafiki, head of Marrakech’s Menara district, said it is difficult to determine the total number of victims.
He told Al Jazeera that the rugged mountainous terrain where the earthquake occurred makes it challenging to reach the victims, but stressed that local authorities are continuing their relief efforts and providing assistance.
Errachid Montassir, an activist and aid worker, has been traveling with doctors to remote villages in the Atlas Mountains.
He said it took them five hours to reach the town of Ijjoukak because the road was blocked.
“It was a disaster and also a shock to see people still under the rubble there,” he told Al Jazeera.
“The army is doing its job to get these people off the land, but it’s also very, very difficult to get to these places, so you can imagine that there is no food, but there are also no blankets or beds where people can sleep.”
The village of Tikht, which was previously home to at least 100 families, is a tangle of beams, pieces of masonry, as well as broken plates, shoes and the occasional intricately designed rug.
“Life is over here,” said Mohssin Aksum, 33, who had family living in the small settlement. “The town is dead.”
Like many of the most affected towns, it was a small rural place with a significant number of buildings built with a traditional mixture of stone, wood and mud mortar.
Dozens of residents, mourning relatives and soldiers gathered near the ruins. Several said they did not remember any previous earthquakes in the area.
“It wasn’t something people here thought about when they built their houses,” said Abdelrahman Edjal, a 23-year-old student, who lost most of his family in the disaster.
Reconstruction is expected to be a huge challenge for the North African country, which was already suffering from economic problems and years of drought and now fears a slowdown in its crucial tourism sector.
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