By Athena Papakosta

In Morocco, relatives are burying their dead as the Red Cross says it could take years for the country to recover.

Search and rescue operations are in full swing as the country enters three days of national mourning. The dead are thousands. So are the injured with hospitals and blood donation centers being suffocated by residents and tourists to donate blood.

The armed forces have been mobilized to transport drinking water, food, tents and blankets to the affected areas, many of which are difficult to reach due to the landslides.

Last Friday’s earthquake was the deadliest to hit Morocco in six decades. Its focus is placed on the mountain villages of the Atlas and it was felt even in the capital, Rabat, which is about 350 km from the city of Marrakesh.

The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have been affected, while many Moroccans have protested on social media, insisting that the country’s government is not allowing international aid. As the Associated Press news agency notes, Morocco has not issued an international appeal for help as Turkey did last February after the double deadly Enceladus strike in the south of the country and the border with Syria.

At the same time, according to the Moroccan government, Rabat has received help from the United Kingdom, Spain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, while the Czech Republic says it has sent a team of rescuers to the country.

Many problems are still recorded in the heart of Marrakesh, in the Medina, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At this point, 1/3 of the population has been affected, while the areas that have been affected the most are the rural areas in Mount Atlas.

And yesterday, Sunday, a new aftershock measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale hit the region, spreading terror once again. The testimonies of the residents are heartbreaking since many have lost their children, their parents, their entire families.

“This was God’s will. I lost both my daughters. May their souls rest in peace. They slept on the first floor. The ceiling fell and overwhelmed them.”

But there are also the testimonies of people who were saved.

“I was sleeping at the time. I couldn’t get out because the roof of my house fell and crushed me. I was trapped in the wreckage. I was rescued by my neighbors who cleaned the wreckage with their bare hands,” says an elderly villager who miraculously survived but saw the efforts of a lifetime go to waste.

Back in Marrakesh, many have lost their homes while others – fearing aftershocks or a new, stronger and more deadly earthquake – are still spending their evenings in outdoor spaces such as squares or their cars.

Last Friday’s earthquake was the strongest recorded in the country since 1960, when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit the city of Agadir 63 years ago. At least 12,000 people died then.

Today and according to the last count, the victims are – for now – at least 2,122 as fears that they will increase further remain.