IN a twist of fate, a joyous wedding celebration in a Moroccan village turned into a lifesaving event as a powerful earthquake struck, sparing the attendees while causing extensive damage to their homes. This remarkable story unfolded during the marriage of Habiba Ajdir, 22, and apple farmer Mohammed Boudad, 30, in the village of Kettou.
Traditionally, the bride’s family hosts a pre-wedding party the night before the wedding, and it was during this celebration that the 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit. A video captured the moment, showing musicians in traditional attire playing flutes and handheld goatskin drums, only for the festivities to abruptly give way to chaos, darkness, and screams.
Standing beside his wife, still dressed in their wedding attire nearly four days after the earthquake, Boudad shared his experience. He confessed that the tremor overwhelmed him with fear for both his wife’s village and his own. He explained, ‘We wanted to celebrate. Then the quake hit. I didn’t know whether to worry about her village or mine.’
Ajdir, deeply affected by the earthquake, declined to speak to strangers due to the trauma she experienced, according to Boudad.
In contrast to other parts of the Adassil region, close to the earthquake’s epicentre, which suffered casualties, the impoverished village of Ighil Ntalghoumt was left in ruins, but miraculously, there were no reported deaths or serious injuries among its residents.
The earthquake in Morocco marked the deadliest since 1960, resulting in over 2,900 casualties, primarily in remote settlements in the High Atlas mountain range south of Marrakech.
The video footage from the wedding celebration captures the frantic moments when people screamed and shouted ‘earthquake,’ transitioning from the festive atmosphere to the use of mobile phone flashlights in the darkness.
In Ighil Ntalghoumt, only one person, eight-year-old Ahmed Ait Ali Oubella, sustained injuries when a falling rock struck his head, requiring him to be carried to safety by his father.
Despite the disaster, Ajdir traveled to Kettou as planned on Saturday, accompanied by Boudad’s brother and his wife, who had also attended the pre-wedding party. They encountered widespread damage upon arrival but found no fatalities.
In both Ighil Ntalghoumt and Kettou, communal gatherings played a pivotal role in saving lives. Residents of surrounding villages had gathered to enjoy the Ajdir family’s celebration, which included a communal meal. This gathering ensured that many were not trapped in their homes by falling rubble.
The bride’s father, Mohamed Ajdir, repurposed a large tent initially set up for wedding guests as shelter for the villagers. However, they now require more robust shelters, especially with colder and wetter weather expected later in the week.
As survivors shared their meagre supplies in Kettou, a sense of unity prevailed. ‘The village is a big family. We share all we get,’ Boudad stated, highlighting the resilience and solidarity of the community in the face of adversity.