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Search for Morrocan Quake Survivors Ends - 2004-02-26


International rescue teams have given up the search for survivors in the devastating earthquake that shook Morocco earlier this week, killing 571 people and injuring hundreds more. The slow arrival of emergency aid is causing problems.

Angry demonstrators took to the streets in the port city of Al Hoceima to protest the government's response to this week's deadly quake. Several protesters were injured in clashes with the Moroccan military.

Many Moroccans are critical of aid efforts that they say are not enough to help the thousands of people left homeless by the powerful quake, which measured 6.5 on the Richter scale and crumbled several villages in northeastern Morocco.

Some homeless survivors in the affected areas have complained that aid supplies are scarce. Some foreign rescue and relief teams reported being turned away by local officials.

A relief worker with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Rana Sidani, says it is hard to know where supplies are needed most, because communication among relief teams scattered in the difficult terrain is nearly impossible.

"We are continuing our efforts. To be honest with you I do not know because in those rural areas there is no connection to call the people over their cell phones," she said. "You can imagine its mountains, so once you are in there you cannot be connected."

Ms. Sidani is working with relief teams in Imzouren, a village about 18 kilometers from Al Hoceima, where she says about 300 bodies were found and where half of the buildings and houses have collapsed.

Residents who lost their homes or are afraid to go back to them are gathering inside tents where workers are handing out blankets, heaters, mattresses, and food.

The region continues to be rocked by aftershocks. One particularly strong tremor measured 5.3 on the Richter scale. Ms. Sidani says people are scared and frustrated.

"Everybody is traumatized. It is very sad. Five minutes ago, an aftershock happened," she said. "It was very severe and I was talking to a family that had lost most of their brothers and they have just run outside the tents. They have this reaction that they want to run away."

Ms. Sidani says children and the elderly are suffering the most.

"The elderly, because when an aftershock happens they want to run and some of them are not in good health, so they fall down and they have broken bones," she explained. "The kids, also, they are crying, their mothers are telling me that lots of them are crying and do not accept to sleep at night. At night it is very cold. The temperature drops below zero."

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent has appealed for $2 million more worth of aid to assist the estimated 300,000 survivors of the earthquake.