Morocco’s strongest-ever earthquake has so far claimed 2,497 lives and injured thousands, with foreign teams today joining the intensifying race against the clock to rescue any remaining survivors from beneath the rubble of flattened mountain villages.
Terrifying footage shows the moment people ran for their lives as Marrakech was rocked by the powerful 6.8 magnitude quake as it struck around 40 miles away, destroying homes and damaging historic buildings.
Around 300,000 people were affected by the quake, the UN has estimated, with many left homeless or fearing more aftershocks forced to slept on the streets of Marrakech for the past three nights.
CCTV footage shows the moment violent tremors hit a street in the bustling city late on Friday night, with people jumping to their feet and fleeing as buildings crumbled around them.
Another dramatic video of a wedding party in Marrakech shows a singer and musicians abandoning the stage as the quake shook the venue where people had been gathered to celebrate.
A rescue team works to recover the bodies of earthquake victims in Amizmiz, south of Marrakesh. Hopes are beginning to fade for any survivors three days after the quake struck
Devastated women react as volunteers recover the body of a familly member from the rubble of collapsed houses in the village of Imi N’Tala near Amizmiz in central Morocco
Rescuers use their hands and shovels to try and clear the remains of a collapsed building in the village of Imi N’Tala near Amizmiz
People carry the remains of a victim of the deadly 6.8-magnitude September 8 earthquake, in the village of Imi N’Tala near Amizmiz in central Morocco
The footage, which has gone viral since the deadly quake, cuts out as wedding guests can be heard screaming while they sprint out of the building.
The singer and his orchestra were mid-performance when they suddenly realised what was going on, with people seen jumping over instruments to escape the room as quickly as they can.
Outside, in the streets of the historic city, unstable buildings were seen collapsing during the violent tremors.
In one clip, a pair of men who were sitting on a bench can be seen leaping out of their seats and making off just in time to avoid being hit by falling debris.
A plume of dust fills the air in the alleyway as a wall falls around them, with people retreating to the main street as they desperately seek shelter.
The earthquake cracked and crumbled parts of the walls that surround Marrakech’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 12th century.
The city is Morocco’s most widely visited destination, known for its palaces, spice markets, tanneries and Jemaa El Fna, a vibrant square full of food vendors and musicians.
Several hundred people who are unable to return home have since set up camp in Place des Ferblantiers, near the south-west of the city and the medina.
Some stretched out on the central reservation of the city’s main road, Mohamed VI Avenue, while others lay at the foot of their parked cars.
Flattened homes in the town of Talat N’Yaaqoub. Mattresses and furniture can be seen amongst the debris
Volunteers search for survivors in the rubble in the village of Talat N’Yacoub, south of Marrakech
Workers stand among rubble in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Talat N’yaaqoub, Morocco
Officials wait as search and rescue teams continue operations in Talat N’Yaaqoub town
An injured man camping out on the pavement in Marrakech alongside hundreds of others
While there was some serious damage to buildings in Marrakech, the worst affected areas are rural villages around central Morocco.
With many still missing, rescuers are now in a growing race against time to dig any survivors from the rubble of devastated villages in the surrounding hills, with many admitting that this is now a mission to recover bodies.
Relief workers face the challenge of reaching the worst-affected villages in the High Atlas, a rugged mountain range where settlements are often remote and where many houses crumbled.
There have been warnings from teams on the ground that the traditional mud brick, stone and rough wood housing typical of the High Atlas mountain villages has reduced the chances of finding survivors.
‘It’s difficult to pull people out alive because most of the walls and ceilings turned to earthen rubble when they fell, burying whoever was inside without leaving air spaces,’ a military rescue worker, who asked not to be named, said at an army centre south of Marrakech near the epicentre.
With many homes fashioned out of mud bricks and timber or cement and breeze blocks, structures crumbled easily in mounds of debris when the quake struck late on Friday evening, without creating the pockets of air that earthquake-ready concrete buildings can provide.
In a region not used to such powerful quakes, even concrete homes or buildings often lack anti-seismic design, experts said, leaving survivors and rescuers to sift through mounds of rubble with hardly any walls left, where homes once stood.
‘This kind of collapse causes greater air tightness due to the types of material, like mud brick,’ Antonio Nogales, coordinator of operations for Firemen United without Borders, a Spanish rescue team on the ground, told Spain’s TVE broadcaster.
‘Steel and concrete facilitate the possibility of survivors, but these (mud and brick) materials (common in Morocco) mean that in the first moments the chances of getting people out alive are reduced,’ Nogales said.
Those who have survived Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in more than six decades have been struggling to find food, water and shelter, amid warnings of the humanitarian disaster worsening.
On Sunday, many were forced to spend a third night in the open after the 6.8 magnitude quake hit late on Friday.
Several hundred people who are unable to return home have since set up camp in Place des Ferblantiers in Marrakech
Young families have been forced to sleep on the floor for a third night in many cases as they are unable to return home after Friday’s quake
Estimates suggest around 300,000 people were affected by the quake, with many left homeless or fearing more aftershocks forced to slept on the streets of Marrakech
A pram is pictured next to a woman and her piles of belongings in south-west Marrakech following the quake
People have laid out carpets and been forced to sleep on the streets following the effects of the earthquake in Marrakech
A rescuer combs through the remnants of a decimated home with more destruction clear in the background in the mountain village of Tinmel
A search worker in Tinmel, Morocco stands next to a destroyed house in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake
The side of a home was ripped off by the force of the quake in the Al Haouz Province
Search and rescue teams have been working around the clock to find any remaining survivors
The search for the missing in remote villages is still underway today, with the death toll likely to rise further.
Rabat on Sunday announced it had accepted aid offers from four nations, while many other countries have said they were willing to send assistance.
Authorities have responded favourably ‘at this stage’ to offers from Spain, Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates ‘to send search and rescue teams’, the interior ministry said.
It noted the foreign teams were in contact with Moroccan authorities to coordinate efforts, and said only four offers had been accepted so far, arguing that ‘a lack of coordination could be counterproductive’.
President Emmanuel Macron said France was willing to provide aid ‘the second’ Morocco requested it.
A Moroccan family who are staying in a camp at an open area in Ouirgane, south of Marrakech
A group of men set up a makeshift camp at an open area in Moulay Brahim, south of Marrakech
The Red Cross warned it could take years to repair the damage caused by the quake
People camp on the roadside in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Imgdal, Morocco
But once aid crews and soldiers leave, the challenges facing hundreds of thousands who call the area home will likely remain.
The Red Cross warned it could take years to repair the damage caused by the quake.
‘It won’t be a matter of a week or two… We are counting on a response that will take months, if not years,’ said Hossam Elsharkawi, its Middle East and North Africa director.
The quake was the deadliest in Morocco since a 1960 earthquake destroyed Agadir, killing more than 12,000 people.
Members of the Moroccan Parliament are scheduled to convene Monday to create a government fund for earthquake response at the request of King Mohammed VI.
The kingdom has declared three days of national mourning in the wake of the disaster.
Mohamed Sebbagh, 66, stands in front of his destroyed house, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake, in Amizmiz, Morocco
Tourists and locals have described rushing to get out of the buildings they were in and being worried about returning to houses and hotels in the aftermath.
Holidaymaker Mark Chester and his wife Julie from Southampton were in the Medina Gardens hotel in Marrakech when it occurred shortly after 11pm on Friday.
‘We had just gone to bed and we soon realised what was going on,’ recalled civil servant Mr Chester, 56.
‘We ran out of the building and eventually the hotel put beds and sunbeds out on the grass so that people could sleep outside. There was a good spirit of co-operation between the people there, about three-quarters of them British.
‘At about 6.30pm we were allowed back inside, but everyone was still nervous about aftershocks.’
A wedding singer and his orchestra sprinted off stage as they felt the tremors hit on Friday
CCTV captured terrified locals and tourists fleeing a cafe in Marrakech as the quake struck
Tourists and citizens have reported to hospitals in Marrakech and elsewhere to donate blood for the injured. Among the donors were members of Morocco’s national football team.
Other volunteers organised food and essential goods to help quake victims, after complaints that authorities were slow to respond.
‘Everyone must mobilise,’ said one volunteer, Mohamed Belkaid, 65. ‘And that includes the authorities, but they seem to be absent.’
The education ministry announced that school classes were ‘suspended’ in the worst-hit villages of Al-Haouz province, the quake epicentre.
Mark Chester and his wife Julie were some of the first in the queue to give blood
Some parts of Marrakech’s historic medina and its network of alleyways saw significant damage, with mounds of rubble and crumpled buildings in the World Heritage site.
Videos also show dust emanating from parts of the Koutoubia Mosque, one of the city’s best known historic sites.
The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva began its session on Monday with a minute’s silence for the quake victims.
‘We are part of a global collectivity: humanity,’ said Gambia’s ambassador Muhammadu Kah, who proposed the tribute.
The quake was the deadliest in Morocco since a 1960 earthquake destroyed Agadir, killing at least 12,000 people.
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