TAFEGHAGHTE, Morocco — The smell of rotting bodies hangs in the air in this small mountain village, whose dead have been buried in shallow, temporary graves without caskets. Bramble and stones cover them to keep the dogs away.
At least 2,680 people were killed and more than 2,500 were injured after Friday night’s magnitude-6.8 earthquake struck here in the High Atlas Mountains, southwest of Marrakech, according to Morocco’s Interior Ministry.
In Tafeghaghte, the search and rescue mission is at an end. There are only 100 homes in this hamlet, yet more than 90 people are dead. The last of the corpses was recovered Monday morning.
The government-supplied bulldozer clawing through the rubble is now only searching for salvageable belongings. Blankets are recovered, along with usable wood from window frames. Miraculously, a box of glass tea cups was also found.
Near the shallow graves, a local family has built an encampment in a grove of olive trees. There, 68-year-old Batoul serves tea and bread to visitors and neighbors, even though seven members of her family were killed in the earthquake.
“I feel nothing,” said the matriarch, who asked to be referred to by her first name only. “Everything is dead. Everyone is dead.”
Teams with Doctors Without Borders on the scene say the areas within the High Atlas Mountains are those in most need. They are also “the most difficult to reach as roads have also been affected by the earthquake,” the group said.
The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people were affected by the quake, which was made more dangerous by its relatively shallow depth.
Most of the destruction and deaths were in Al Haouz province in the High Atlas Mountains, where steep and winding roads became clogged with rubble leaving villagers to fend for themselves.
A total of 2,681 people were confirmed dead, with nearly 1,600 of them from Al Haouz province, the Moroccan Interior Ministry reported.
Nearly all the dead have already been buried, the government reported.
Like in many villages in the region, it appears the poorest were the hardest hit.
Batoul is sharing a tent with her brother and one son. Another son, Abdul Karim, 43, brings supplies from nearby Marrakech, a 90-minute drive. He carries clothes, blankets, soap and shoes to his family who live in the High Atlas Mountains.
“This village had about 100 homes and was like a family. Now there’s nothing,” he said.
“We’re going to wait for the government to come and help. There’s nothing else we can do,” he added.
There are few signs of government help in Tafeghaghte, however, an issue that appears to be having some effect on recovery throughout the impact area.
On Monday, Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch met with King Mohammed VI and gave his first public remarks since the earthquake. The prime minister said the North African country was committed to funding rebuilding.
Despite receiving offers of aid from several countries, The Associated Press reported that Morocco has only accepted help from four: Spain, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
“The Moroccan authorities have carefully assessed the needs on the ground, bearing in mind that a lack of coordination in such cases would be counterproductive,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Civil society groups have delivered tents and are providing some food. International aid workers from the United Kingdom and Spain are now setting up relief efforts in the nearby valley, just a short drive from the village.
Residents hope more substantial aid is coming.
“We’re not asking for much,” said Abdul Karim. “We’re just asking for the government to rebuild our houses.”
Bill O'Reilly and Matt Bradley reported from Tafeghaghte, Morocco, and Phil McCausland reported from New York.