Flooding in Morocco: An interview with Mhamed Alhilali

In the aftermath of heavy rainfall that led to flooding in many areas of southern Morocco, Kevin Moore from Al Miraah had the opportunity to speak with Mhamed Alhilali, Project Director of Casablanca-based Moroccan NGO Amis des Écoles. Mr. Alhilali was born in raised in Tata and has long been involved in social and charitable work within his community.

Mhamed Alhilali distributing aid on behalf of Amis des Écoles in Akka, Tata.
Mhamed Alhilali distributing aid on behalf of Amis des Écoles in Akka, Tata.

Can you describe the extreme weather that affected the southern regions of the Kingdom of Morocco recently? What were the human casualties and physical damage that occurred as a result of the heavy rains?
Torrential rains poured down on the south of the Kingdom of Morocco from 21-30 November 2014, claiming the lives of more than 40 people in various affected cities. In some areas, as much as 250 ml of rain fell. However, the toll was heaviest in the ill-fated city of Guelmim, where the infrastructure, roads and public spaces were damaged. Roads and pathways were destroyed and a number of villages and rural areas were isolated from the outside world. Land and trees were swept away, greatly impacting farming and killing a large amount of livestock — sheep, cows and goats. Meanwhile, services like water, electricity and phone lines were cut off in some areas for nearly a week.

Is this the first incident of its kind?
Many cities in southern Morocco have not experienced rain like this in over 40 years.

Which areas were most affected by the heavy rainfall?
The cities affected were Ouarzazate, Tinghir, Errachidia, Zagora, Tata, Tiznit, Taroudant, Sidi Ifni, Agadir, Ait Meloul, and Assa Zag.

Major flooding destroyed dozens of buildings, leaving many families homeless.
Major flooding destroyed dozens of buildings, leaving many families homeless.

What steps has the Moroccan government taken to help in rehabilitating and fixing the homes, roads and bridges that were destroyed?
With instructions from the King, the government took actions to expedite relieve to those affected and formed volunteer committees. The state also supported those stricken by the floods by airlifting urgent assistance and aid into affected areas by helicopter. A number of citizens were saved by the helicopters of the Moroccan army and the Royal Gendarmerie. Likewise, members of the Civil Protection Services and crews from the Healthy Ministry also assisted in the affected areas.

Are there non-governmental organisations (NGOs) active in cleaning up and distributing relief in southern cities? What are their activities?
With regard to NGOs, there were very few during the interventions other than a few people who entered in order to provide relief. Likewise, people intervened to provide relief and civil society organisations collected aid from benefactors, wealthy people in the country, and Moroccans living abroad. But these days were hear about the intention of a number of local organisations to provide support. It is worth mentioning that Amis des Écoles in Casablanca took the initiative to support the families affected by these heavy rains in villages around Tata Province — food items, winter clothing, blankets — but it is not sufficient.

Floods in southern Morocco eroded roads and destroyed bridges.
Floods in southern Morocco eroded roads and destroyed bridges.

What actions must be taken in order to avoid this flooding and destruction in the future?
The Moroccan government has allocated an important budget in order to fix what was destroyed as part of urgent plans. There is a problem of fraud among contractors who are not dedicated to their work. These budgets are expensive, so I hope that the government is firm with entrepreneurs who are granted contracts. Likewise, I wish for the government to crack down on corruption.

Interview conducted and translated by Kevin Moore.
All images courtesy of Mhamed Alhilali and Amis des Écoles.

Kevin Moore

Kevin Moore holds an MSc in Arab World Studies from the University of Edinburgh.


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