When the villagers of Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains were stricken by a powerful earthquake on Friday, they found themselves facing a situation they had never known before.
They dug desperately in the rubble to rescue loved ones or find their bodies so they could bury them, rescue crews having been held up by mountain roads choked with rocks that fell in the magnitude 6.8 quake.
Heavy machinery was dispatched to clear the roads, and rescue teams worked to open access points to the mountain. But it took time – time the villagers did not have.
The villagers, used to the mountainous terrain, found a foolproof method to move themselves and materials around: their donkeys.
Photos have emerged of villagers using donkeys to move rubble out of the way, to get relief supplies to more difficult-to-reach spots, and to move people to where they need to go.
The nimble-footed creatures have been able to pick their way along tracks that are barely visible, loaded with bulging saddlebags and sometimes hauling a person on their backs to boot.
Families who lost their homes made shelters wherever they could, making sure to pitch stakes to which they could tie their donkeys. They also made sure to feed and keep taking care of the donkeys who, in these circumstances, have become much more than simple beasts of burden.