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Morocco quake survivors face futures in encampments without plumbing, electricity

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many survivors of Morocco's recent earthquake are in mountain towns where they live in camps without plumbing or electricity. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley met with residents of one destroyed neighborhood.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: We're walking down an alley where there are destroyed houses on the left, some intact on the right. The ones that are left are too dangerous to stay in. There's just rocks and rubble and trash and stray cats and dogs, and it's hot - so, so hot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE REVVING)

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: Her house is this one. Her neighbors - and it's very dangerous, and now they are living - (speaking Arabic). They're staying in these tents.

BEARDSLEY: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: So...

BEARDSLEY: Oh, God.

My interpreter and I accompany 35-year-old Fatima Ait Maid down her rubble-strewn street in the Atlas Mountain town of Amizmiz. Her house was sheared in half by the earthquake. She and dozens of her neighbors now live in tents on a dirt lot below the town.

FATIMA AIT MAID: (Through interpreter) We don't have a home anymore. Our kids don't go to school. Everything has gone. Really, everything has gone. I'm hopeless. I don't feel any energy when I wake up in the morning. I see everything have been destroyed, and I think my soul have been destroyed too.

AIT MAID: (Speaking Arabic).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Arabic).

BEARDSLEY: She and her neighbors spend their days under a cluster of trees in the shade.

Women and children - and there's cookstoves set up, teapots everywhere.

(Speaking Arabic).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Arabic).

BEARDSLEY: The plot of land they're sheltering on belongs to 70-year-old Tayeb Farjij, who thanks us for our visit even as he grieves for his town.

TAYEB FARJIJ: (Through interpreter) Amizmiz was like a garden from heaven. We lived from our harvest. The young people worked close by in big cities like Marrakech, and foreigners visited our mountain villages.

BEARDSLEY: But with all the destruction, he fears the tourists won't be back.

MERIEM NAZIH: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Seventeen-year-old high school senior Meriem Nazih describes in French and Arabic how her school was destroyed and many of her teachers and friends killed.

MERIEM: (Speaking Arabic).

BEARDSLEY: "We young people are lost. Our parents don't have a clue of what to do, and everyone needs some time to be able to think clearly again," she says. But Nazih says her goal of finishing school and becoming a nurse has only strengthened. The Moroccan government has promised to house those left homeless by the quake. But so far, many basic needs have yet to be met.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Non-English language spoken).

MERIEM: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: We don't have clothes or shampoo. We can't take a shower, the women tell me. They say everyone is itching from skin infections. There are 40 people sleeping in one tent, says one woman. They point to a ditch behind a clump of trees - their toilet. Despite the hardship, they serve their visitors tea and homemade bread to dip in local olive oil.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Clapping).

BEARDSLEY: The age range of this group is 95 to a 1-year-old who everybody tries to entertain. These neighbors now live as one big family. Landowner Farjij says his house didn't collapse in the quake, but it could come down in one of the frequent aftershocks.

FARJIJ: (Through interpreter) I ran out with only the clothes on my back, so, of course, I've gone back in to get things, but I'm petrified every time I do.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Fear is something everyone here is learning to live with. As we depart, Fatima Ait Maid joins us again. She's going to help her husband, who lost a leg to diabetes and can't get around. We climb a steep lane clogged with rocks and debris. The cracked and buckling wall of a house towers above us on one side.

AIT MAID: (Through interpreter) I take this road twice a day because I need to help my husband - he's up there working - to bring food for him. Let's go. Let's go because I don't feel safe.

BEARDSLEY: She says passing that wall makes her heart stop, but she has no choice but to keep going.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Amizmiz, Morocco.

(SOUNDBITE OF COCONUT RECORDS' "DAKOTA") 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.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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