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Displaced family in Morocco will have to start over following earthquake

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next, we're going to meet a woman who endured last week's earthquake in Morocco. She met NPR's Lauren Frayer.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: I met 18-year-old Iman Erbeen (ph) in a crowd of quake survivors lining up for blankets being handed out by the Moroccan military.

IMAN ERBEEN: You see all people screaming for the bed, you know? That's why.

FRAYER: Blankets?

ERBEEN: Yeah, yeah. Blankets, yeah.

FRAYER: The town of Amizmiz, population about 15,000, is like a gateway to the Atlas Mountains, which rescuers are still trying to penetrate. It's become a staging area for aid. Despite its own damage - nearly every building here is cracked or crumbling - Erbeen takes me to what's left of hers.

ERBEEN: This is our house. It's completely down.

FRAYER: I can see cooking gas?

ERBEEN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That is the kitchen, yeah.

FRAYER: Away from the aid convoys and desperate survivors out in the cold, the residential streets here are hushed, like walking around a cemetery. She points to her shattered window. A pink hoodie sweatshirt dangles from exposed rebar. That's the living room where she was hanging out with her sister and cousins when the quake struck.

ERBEEN: We were sitting here, and we were smiling. Suddenly, we're screaming. We say, oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. And we go outside here. We climb. We were just genius, me and my cousin. And we go outside.

FRAYER: You were geniuses?

ERBEEN: Yeah, we were genius, really.

FRAYER: She actually doesn't have a scratch on her body after climbing out of the collapsed second story. A pregnant woman next door was unable to escape, though. They recovered her body a day later.

(SOUNDBITE OF RUBBLE CLANKING)

FRAYER: Residents are trickling home to pluck possessions from the rubble. They're also streaming down from the high mountains with tales of villages running out of food and water.

IMAD ZAIMET: It's a village.

FRAYER: Yes.

ZAIMET: It's a small village here. It doesn't have any help.

FRAYER: You came from there now?

ZAIMET: Yes, I'm from there.

FRAYER: That's Imad Zaimet (ph). Throughout the mountains, rescuers with sniffer dogs are searching for signs of life for a fourth day.

ANTONIO NOGALES: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: Antonio Nogales is a Spanish firefighter who deployed to Turkey's earthquake earlier this year and says this one is way harder. Houses here are made from soft red clay that leaves few air pockets when it collapses. He's searched hundreds of homes here without a single survivor. There are scenes of horror here, but also reunions. Erbeen's aunt spots her on the street and cries out.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: People fled these houses in their pajamas Friday. Erbeen didn't even wear shoes. Her cellphone is still somewhere in the rubble. For many families, it's taken 72 hours to figure out who survived and who did not.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: An elderly neighbor paces the street with his walking stick, exclaiming thanks be to God over and over. For now, an olive grove on the outskirts of town is Erbeen's temporary new home with 30 of her relatives. By day, they shelter under a row of solar panels in a field, and at night they roll out blankets.

So this is where you sleep?

ERBEEN: It's very different, you know?

FRAYER: You can see the stars.

ERBEEN: Yeah (laughter).

FRAYER: This week, Erbeen is supposed to go back to college after summer vacation.

ERBEEN: I don't think in the future. I just want my family to be OK, you know? Sit here for a drink.

FRAYER: As night falls, this family who lost everything offers me tea and gives thanks that they're alive.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEA POURING, DISH CLINKING)

FRAYER: Lauren Frayer, NPR News, in Amizmiz in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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