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Morocco begins providing cash to families whose homes were destroyed by earthquake

The payments are among several forms of relief that Morocco plans to provide
People dig through the rubble as they try to salvage usable belongings and equipments, in Amizmiz, outside Marrakech, Friday, Oct. 6, 2023. Villagers in hard-hit regions are weighing how to best rebuild as Moroccan authorities begin to providing rehousing funds to those whose homes were destroyed by last month’s earthquake. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Four weeks after an earthquake knocked down much of his neighborhood, Rachid Alachoun now eagerly awaits client calls from the garage where he works on damaged appliances.

The 40-year-old plumber has sporadically found jobs throughout Amizmiz, a town of 14,000 people near the earthquake’s epicenter, but there isn’t as much work as before.

That could soon change, however, as the community prepares to rebuild. Architects and government adminstrators have surveyed damaged households, writing down the phone numbers of those entitled to emergency rehousing assistance in the near future and rebuilding funds for the longer term.

Moroccan authorities said Friday that they had begun providing money to those whose homes were destroyed. In Amizmiz, residents who provide authorities phone numbers are awaiting text messages with codes they can take to mobile banking units erected near the town’s center.

After a commission tasked by King Mohammed VI to oversee recovery efforts met earlier this week, the government said initial monthly payments of 2,500 Moroccan dirhams ($242) would be disbursed starting Oct. 6.

While the rest of his family relocated to a nearby tent city for displaced people, Alachoun is living in one part of his mostly destroyed former home. His family has received a tent and doesn’t lack for food, clothing or other immediate needs, but they worry as winter looms.

“We don’t have two or three years to wait for the government to build,” he said.

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The Sept. 8 earthquake wreaked havoc on rural regions south of Marrakech, where some mountain roads remain unpaved and the economy relies on herding and small-scale agriculture. As autumn nights get cooler, many are sleeping outside in donated tents with the daunting task of rebuilding before them.

The payments are among several forms of relief that Morocco plans to provide people displaced by the earthquake. It will provide temporary rehousing assistance and up to 140,000 dirhams ($13,600) to rebuild destroyed homes. It also plans to rebuild about 1,000 schools and 42 health centers.

Alachoun and others in Amizmiz’s Sourejdid neighborhood wonder whether the government plans to provide a universal blueprint for rebuilding or will disburse funds and let residents build how they choose. He is confident that rebuilt homes will need plumbing either way, but worries about the speed of efforts.

The Royal Cabinet said Sept. 14 that the payments would go to 50,000 households in the affected region. Roughly 4.2 million people live in Marrakech and the five provinces hardest hit by the quake.

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Morocco has also pledged to upgrade and widen roads and offer additional assistance to farmers and herders and subsidize barley and animal feed in hard-hit areas.

The earthquake damaged landmarks throughout the region, which is dominated by Morocco’s Amazigh-speaking minority.

Morocco created a special disaster relief fund three days after the earthquake. It is open to state funds and donations from within and outside Morocco, including from governments and aid groups. Additionally, the International Monetary Fund, which is scheduled to convene for its annual meetings next week in Marrakech, approved a $1.3 billion loan to help Morocco bolster its resilience to natural disasters.

Sam Metz, The Associated Press