Tahar Ben Jelloun, 78 years old, Goncourt Prize 2007 for “Sacred Night”, recently author of “Lovers of Casablanca”, lives part of the year in Tangier (Morocco), in the North, his beloved city “which has not always been spared, but this time, she is not concerned by this catastrophe “.
The Franco-Moroccan writer, who was still in his native country a few days ago, knows these rural regions very well which have been very affected by the earthquake that hit the country on the night of Friday September 8 to Saturday September 9.
“In many villages, residents still build as best they can”
“It is especially the countryside, where the buildings are not modern, which has been hit hard. In many villages, unfortunately, the inhabitants still build as best they can, according to their ancestral habits. In the countryside, people were buried in their homes… Since the Agadir earthquake in 1960, which is still remembered in all of Morocco, because the city had been completely razed, normally in the country, all construction obeys anti-seismic laws. But not always in rural regions far from major cities,” he recalls. Villages where raw earth is often used, where there are still wells, where tractors have not always replaced animals.
VIDEO. Morocco: more than 800 dead after a magnitude 7 earthquake
The novelist, who was unable to contact his in-laws this Saturday morning, catches his breath in Paris, very marked: “They are not in the affected area, they live further to the West, but we have heard the earthquake everywhere, it resonated as far as Casablanca. What really impresses and worries me is that the magnitude of the earthquake is higher than that of Agadir at the time. I checked, it’s scary. The Moroccans all spent the night outside and panic exists. Since Agadir, we are afraid of aftershocks and we know that a city can be wiped off the map. It’s frightening. »
Jury member Goncourt tries to see a single point, not reuring, but which calms “the Agadir trauma”, still so present: “There were 12,000 deaths, do you realize? All the memory of a city, all its population. We had to rebuild everything, everything. This time, the earthquake mainly hit sparsely populated areas. It’s terrifying, but there will be fewer missing people. »
Has this geographical area of the Maghreb subject to seismic fragility led to preparation among the inhabitants, a bit like in Japan? “No, we know it but we forget it, that there could be an earthquake. I travelled in Türkiye which is also sensitive to these disasters. There was an alert in Istanbul, but we get used to it, we can’t think about that all the time. »