A WESTCOUNTRY man has told of the devastation to villagers he witnessed while helpiong rebuild communities suffering in the Moroccan earthquake.

Lawrie Tawse, of Okehampton, has just returned from the Atlas Mountains, the worst affected area of the quake which hit the rural people the worst when it hit at the beginning of September.

Lawrie, a member of  NorthDartmoor Search and Rescue Team used his survival leadership and medical skills honed with the group and during his former career as a Royal Navy officer to help the people in the most remote areas trapped amid the rubble.

He has provided first aid, designed and helped build a temporary kindergarten from local materials and put up heavy duty tents to provide shelter during high temperatures and protect women and children from strangers amid the chaos.

Lawrie, who is married with two daughters at Okehampton College, was tasked to go to Morocco by React. 

He said: “React is a disaster response and crisis response charity providing humanitarian aid in terms of direct action in the fastest time to the most vulnerable.”        

“In common with my other volunteer colleagues in the quake team, are all military veterans capable of deploying when people need immediate and urgent relief.

“Initally a team was sent by REACT to work out what was needed and what we could feasibly do. Our teams are self-sufficent, we carry our own supplies, food and tents so we are not a burden on the host country in need. We are a bunch of problem solvers with multiple skills amongst us. Then my team was deployed on September 12. We have equal numbers of men and women, so we can look after vulnerable women when needed and medics are part of the team. I have medical skills as well.

“We worked in partnership with a local charity which switched into emergency humanitarian response mode, so we could carry out tasks and work out solutions and either support others or ensure the whole job is done ourselves.”

Lawrie added: “On first sight Morrocco is a beautiful place with Marrakesh litle touched by the quake. But as we entered the Atlas Mountains, it was the poorest and most remote villagers who suffered the most destruction. So many homes were just rubble, while residents had no confidence that those homes which appeared ok, would stay up right. So, the overriding issues were sanitation and the number of homeless people. 

Lawrie Tawse  in a temporary kintergarten he designed and built for Morrocco quake victims.
Lawrie Tawse in a temporary kintergarten he designed and built for Morrocco quake victims. (RE-ACT)

“We put up sturdy tents as temporary measures with vulnerable people as a priority, such as women and children who were all housed together. The men were put in separate tents, in case the women felt unsafe with men they didn’t know who were in the area, either to help or for help themselves.

“I designed and helped erect a kindergarten from local materials, which became a model for other areas round Asni and dug latrines and helped a two-week-old dehydrated baby and a boy who cut his foot. Everyone was so grateful, the hospitality was amazing, from people who had so little. It was very fulfilling and humbling.”