Remote Moroccan Village Struggles to Recover After Earthquake
Ardouz: A Village Isolated by Nature
It took almost eight agonizing hours before help finally reached the remote village of Ardouz after the devastating earthquake in Morocco.
This tiny mountain village, nestled in the High Atlas, exudes both an alluring charm and an unforgiving ruggedness born of its isolation.
Isolated Communities Still Inaccessible
Even now, nearly a week after the country suffered its deadliest earthquake in generations, some of these mountain communities remain cut off and inaccessible by road.
Authorities have not disclosed the exact number of such isolated outbreaks.
Arduz: Connected Yet Devastated
However, Arduz is connected by a single winding gravel road that winds through dusty apple orchards and a dry river bed, eventually culminating in steep mountain slopes.
This village, home to about 200 people before the disaster, can still be reached.
Just under 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) to the south, beyond those high hills, lies the earthquake’s epicenter, the site where more than 2,900 people died and hundreds of thousands were left homeless.
The indelible scars of that fateful night, which claimed nearly 20 lives in Ardouza, are etched on the face of Abdelakim Husaini, a 28-year-old who lost his mother and grandparents when their house collapsed on September 8.
An Agonizing Wait for Help
He witnessed the agonizing wait for the wounded to be helped, a wait that, although long, was shorter than in some other isolated regions.
Husaini, a chef by profession from Casablanca, was visiting his family when the disaster occurred.
“The nearest hospital is an hour away and does not offer a wide range of services. We could neither transport the wounded nor even provide assistance to them. We warmed them up and waited for rescuers to arrive, which took about eight hours,” he said.
A Struggle for Survival
Many local residents of these remote villages are forced to seek work in urban centers due to a lack of opportunities, while agriculture remains the most important source of livelihood in these tiny Atlas settlements.
The region is not rich: the surrounding Al-Hawz province has a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of US$2,000, while the neighboring province of Marrakech has a per capita gross domestic product of almost US$2,800.
However, it is not only poverty that determines the lives of people in these villages. “The people here were very happy. They led a simple and peaceful life,” noted Mohamed Alayout, a 62-year-old native. “But after the disaster, the situation became very difficult,” he added.
A Future at Risk
The remoteness of places like Arduz often leads to early cessation of formal education, leading to many young people going into labor – a situation that is unlikely to improve after the earthquake.
The local primary school, although still standing, has significant structural damage making it unfit for use.
The children’s chairs and tables remain in place, along with a poignant reminder of the earthquake, the last lesson still imprinted on the blackboard: September 8th.
“We don’t yet know what will happen to the children. We no longer have a school,” lamented 55-year-old village native Fatima Adjiju. “Life here has been very difficult before. It’s very isolated here and the earthquake just made it worse,” she continued.
A Glimmer of Hope
Husaini, who spent his formative years in the village and stopped education at 15 due to lack of access to secondary school, has been working ever since.
He acknowledges the challenges villagers faced even before the massive earthquake, which wiped out about 10% of the population and left nearly every home destroyed or uninhabitable.
The survivors are now living in government-provided floorless tents that will prove completely inadequate as shelter when the rainy season and cold weather hit the village, located at an altitude of 1,700 meters (5,500 feet).
Amidst these challenges, Husaini clings to her cherished memories of childhood games and mountain treks, enjoying panoramic views over miles of rugged terrain. “We’re not isolated here—it’s in cities where you can’t breathe,” he said, a small smile appearing on his lips.