More than 2,000 people have died so far after a rare and strong earthquake struck Morocco, close to the popular tourist city of Marrakech on Friday night. The search for survivors is continuing amid fears the death toll could rise substantially.
The quake was the strongest to hit the nation’s center in more than a century and many people are feared to still be trapped under the rubble deep in the Atlas Mountains. Tremors were felt as far away as Portugal and Spain as holidaymakers in the North African country recall waking up to trembling rooms and screams.
At least 2,012 people died in the 7.2 magnitude quake, Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported Saturday night. At least 2,059 more people were injured — 1,404 critically — the ministry said. Plus many people, including Brits, are still unaccounted for.
A Moroccan-based British journalist told the Mirror yesterday that he was woken by his wife’s piercing scream and in minutes many of their walls had pancaked to the ground. He likened the chaos to a warzone. “I’ve been in six or seven war zones as a journalist and so the only thing I can liken it to — the noise, the confusion, and the sheer terror of being in a situation where you feel so vulnerable — is a war zone”, said Martin Jay.
The earthquake struck at around 11:11 p.m. local time, with its epicenter located near Oukaïmedene in the High Atlas mountains, around 44.7 miles southwest of Marrakech. Its impact was felt as far north as Casablanca and as south as Tiznit on the southern coast.
deaths have been confirmed in the provinces and municipalities of Marrakech, al-Haouz, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant. The devastation gripped each town along the High Atlas’ steep and winding roads, a rural area with many mud-brick houses that were not built to resist earthquakes. Helmet-clad police were pictured carrying the dead through the streets and whole communities became covered in rubble.
Remote villages like those in the drought-stricken Ouargane Valley were largely cut off from the world when they lost electricity and cellphone service. Hamid Idsalah, a 72-year-old mountain guide, said he and many others remained alive but had little future to look forward to. He told AP: “I can’t reconstruct my home. I don’t know what I’ll do. Still, I’m alive, so I’ll wait. I feel heartsick.” Martin, who lives in Amizmiz in the mountains, told the Mirror: “The story is here, in days to come we will see hundreds if not thousands of people dead in tiny little very humble, modest mud huts.”
In historic Marrakech, the city’s famous Koutoubia Mosque, built in the 12th century, was damaged. Its 226-foot minaret is known as the “roof of Marrakech.” People also posted videos showing damage to parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Moroccan media reported it was the most powerful earthquake to hit the country to date, however, there is a slight discrepancy with its reported size. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) put the quake’s magnitude at 6.8, while Morocco’s geophysical center said the quake had a magnitude of 7.2.
Either way, the worst quake in Morocco’s recent history was a 5.8-magnitude earthquake that killed about 12,000 people and injured another 12,000 in March 1960. A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck northern Morocco in February 2004, killing about 630 people.
Yes, many Britons have been caught up in the horrific natural disaster as Morocco is a popular tourist destination. An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 UK holidaymakers are believed to be staying in Marrakech. While no Brits have been confirmed among the dead, concerns are now growing over many unaccounted for.
Rebecca Calvert, 65, and friend Hilary Mckegney, 64, have not been in contact with loved ones since the quake hit. Rebecca’s daughter Katie, 27, has called on the Foreign Office to send in rescue teams to help find them. She said: “We are sick with worry. They were staying in a small village called Imlil in the Atlas mountains. We last heard from them at 9.30 pm on Friday. We’re desperate for help.”
Beverley Veerasawmy, from Kent, was getting ready for bed at her hotel in Agadir, some 160 miles from Marrakech on the coast, when she felt shakes. Despite there being no visible devastation, Beverley said the atmosphere in the beach hotel is very somber. She told the Mirror: “Normally at this time of the day, we’re fighting for sun beds. But there’s not many people down there at all. Hundreds of people have died and it feels a bit bad taste to be enjoying our holiday down the road.”
The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said it had received a small number of requests for help from British nationals in Morocco following the earthquake.
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