Heavy snow and rain falls hit chilly Morocco

The mountain population is battling to survive temperatures as low as -9 Celsius.
Thursday 01/02/2018
A man walks through the snowfall in the mountainous Moroccan city of Ifrane. (AFP)
Adverse conditions. A man walks through the snowfall in the mountainous Moroccan city of Ifrane. (AFP)

CASABLANCA - Heavy snowfall isolated villages in Moroccan mountains and blocked dozens of roads across the country as a severe cold wave hit.
The southern city of Ouarzazate was covered for the first time since 1988 by snow since January 30 and sand dunes in the area looked like ski slopes.
Similar scenes were also reported in Taroudant and Zagora as more snow was expected to fall on regions with an altitude of 1600 metres and over.
Minister of Equipment, Transport, Logistics and Water Abdelkader Amara said that nearly 5,000km of national, regional and provincial roads were closed at some point this year because of “exceptional” snowfalls. The ministry issued announcements alerting citizens about conditions and initiated several applications, including “ma route” (“my road”).
The mountain population battled to survive temperatures as low as -9 Celsius. The search for wood to burn for heat was severely hampered because of heavy snow.
Residents of the Aguelmam Azegza village in the Khenifra Province were furious at local authorities for being cut off from the outside world in one of the richest areass in the country.
“We have no electricity, no roads and snow has not been cleared by snow plows. We’ve been stuck in the house for 15 days. My children didn’t attend school for seven days because they have to walk 5km back and forth in the freezing weather,” Ismail told Hespress.ma.
Another villager, Mounir from the Ait Haddou o Ali tribe, said the snow reached 1.5 metres in depth, making it very difficult to get fodder to their livestock.
“How can we found a family and build a future if we lack the very basic things to help us live in these extreme conditions?” asked Mounir.
The government and civil society stepped up aid to isolated villages.
“The (Interior) Ministry has implemented the provisions of the comprehensive national plan that this year targeted 205 villages in 169 municipalities in 22 provinces, for a total population of 514,000,” said Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit.
“During the current season, the ministry has activated the command and vigilance centre within the Interior Ministry to monitor the situation, coordinate intervention operations and invite the governors of the regions and provinces concerned to mobilise and take the necessary proactive and preventative measures.”
The government was trying to ensure the supply of basic products and various means of heating in affected areas and distribution of fodder for livestock.
The Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity kick-started its humanitarian programme as part of the Cold-Winter 2018 operation on January 6 under the king’s instructions.
“The aim of the operation is to help rural populations in the mountainous regions of the provinces of the Great and Middle Atlas, which are found each year landlocked in winter, with limited food resources,” the foundation said in a statement.
Approximately 3,500 households in four rural communities in Midelt province — where heavy snowfalls were recorded — will benefit from the distribution of a “Grand Cold Kit,” consisting of flour, rice, sugar, tea, salt, oil, milk and blankets.
The Health Ministry mobilised hundreds of doctors and nurses to help people cope with the severe cold wave. Non-governmental organisations mobilised to help inhabitants stranded in the mountains.
Rabat-based El Baraka Angels led a campaign on Facebook to collect clothes and blankets for 300 households in Kaf Nsour village in Khenifra province.
Takafoul, a Tinghir-based association, led a humanitarian action called “Hand in Hand for a Warm Winter” in the southern province of Todrha Gorges with financial help from Moroccans living abroad. The group seeks to provide 1,004 children with warm clothes, boots and blankets.
Heavy rain and gusty winds and snow fall hit several cities across the country in January.
That precipitation was welcomed by farmers, however, with the rain easing drought conditions that have haunted Morocco and led to a jump in prices of high-demand vegetables, such as tomatoes and potatoes.
High temperatures followed by the cold snap in the autumn, along with the delayed rains, affected early crops.