The flash floods of Imlil in 1995

The people who have made the Ait Mizane valley their home are quite used to seasonal flash floods. Snow melt in springtime and summer storms are all part of the annual cycle of life in the High Atlas Mountains. However, nothing could have prepared the people of Imlil for the events of 17th August 1995. On the day, 70 millimetres of rain fell in just two and a half hours causing a reported six-metre wall of water to crash down the surrounding valleys while the Ait Mizane itself burst its banks, clearly unable to cope with 27 times the average volume of water.

Of course, the consequent damage was devastating although, such was the confusion that official figures have become uncertain even on the extent of the loss of life. It seems that up to 150 people, including as many as 60 tourists, were killed, while around 40 vehicles, which had been parked near the main river, were simply washed away. While the ground floor of the CAF Refuge was filled with boulders and silt churned up by the river. Hotel Café Soleil was torn away with only one corner left standing. Critically for the villagers, both their food stocks and their agricultural lands were devastated.

The Moroccan government, though quick to react to the emergency, needed four days to clear the road into the village before access was possible again from the north.

The effects live on today. While large areas of previously cultivated land still lie buried under flood debris, uprooted orchards of walnut trees, each needing up to 15 years to mature, have only recently been effectively replaced. Look closely and you will see that the banks of the Ait Mizane River, as it passes through Imlil, are now reinforced with concrete.