The earthquake that struck northern Morocco last week killed 572 people, injured 400 and left tens of thousands homeless. It also stirred up old resentments in the Berber-speaking region against the central government in Rabat. Protests spread as survivors complained of the government's slow response to the disaster. "We are hungry and there is nothing to eat!" hundreds chanted in the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima.
Bitter over government repression and local corruption, people looted relief supplies. "I went to the town hall asking for blankets, but some people had stolen them and were selling them instead," said Al Hoceima resident Turiya Faylali. Government spokesman Nabil Benabdallah denied reports that authorities failed to distribute foreign relief material.
Restraint seemed essential given the historic tensions between Rabat and this remote mountainous area adjoining Morocco's northern coast. The rebellious region was deeply mistrusted and neglected during the reign of King Hassan II. His son, King Mohammed VI, arrived on a rare visit to the region on Saturday. Aides said he would pressure government officials to improve the relief effort.