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Morocco mud brick housing makes hunt for earthquake survivors harder

September 11, 2023 at 4:11 pm

A person walks among the rubbles after a 7 magnitude earthquake in Moulay Brahim village, Al Hauz Province, Morocco on September 10, 2023 [Alejandro Martinez Velez – Anadolu Agency]

Rescuers digging, on Monday, through the rubble after Morocco’s deadly earthquake warned that the traditional mud brick, stone and rough wood housing omnipresent in the High Atlas Mountains reduced the chances of finding survivors, Reuters reports.

“It’s difficult to pull people out alive because most of the walls and ceilings turned to earthen rubble when they fell, burying whoever was inside without leaving air spaces,”  a military rescue worker, asking not to be named because of army rules against speaking to media, said at an army centre south of the historic city of Marrakech not far from the quake epicentre.

Morocco’s most powerful earthquake since at least 1900 has killed at least 2,497 people, the state news agency said in its latest update of the human toll on Monday, with thousands more injured and many still missing.

With many homes fashioned out of mud bricks and timber or cement and breeze blocks, structures crumbled easily in mounds of debris when the quake struck late on Friday evening, without creating the pockets of air that earthquake-ready concrete buildings can provide.

In a region not used to such powerful quakes, even concrete homes or buildings often lack anti-seismic design, experts said, leaving survivors and rescuers to sift through mounds of rubble with hardly any walls left, where homes once stood.

“This kind of collapse causes greater air tightness due to the types of material, like mud brick,” Antonio Nogales, coordinator of operations for Firemen United without Borders, a Spanish rescue team on the ground, told Spain’s TVE broadcaster.

Steel and concrete facilitate the possibility of survivors, but these (mud and brick) materials (common in Morocco) mean that, in the first moments, the chances of getting people out alive are reduced

Nogales said.

READ: Death toll from Morocco earthquake nears 2,500