Richard Branson’s sister has urged people not to cancel their holidays to Morocco following an earthquake that has killed more than 2,100 people.
Vanessa Branson, whose family own hotels in the country, made a plea for tourists to continue with their holiday plans and for donations to the victims.
She also called on the annual meeting of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to go ahead in Marrakesh on October 9 as planned.
Her plea came as video showed damage to one of Branson’s hotels – the Kasbah Tamadot – that sits in the Atlas Mountains 30 miles south of Marrakesh.
It is also near to the small village of Imlil where two British backpackers were reported missing by their families, but confirmed overnight to be safe after they spent a night sleeping on the streets.
Vanessa Branson, whose family own hotels in the country, made a plea for tourists to continue with their holiday plans to Morocco and for donations to the victims of the earthquake
Vanessa Branson’s plea came as video showed damage to one of Branson’s hotels – the Kasbah Tamadot – that sits in the Atlas Mountains, 30 miles south of Marrakesh
The epicentre of the quake struck in Al Haouz province, around 45 miles south of Marrakesh. The province is home to small communities high up in the Atlas mountains, as well as Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot hotel (pictured)
People carry the remains of a victim of the deadly 6.8-magnitude earthquake in Morocco
‘The summit absolutely needs to go ahead. There is no reason not to visit Marrakesh now,’ Vanessa Branson told The Times from the Moroccan city, home to one million.
‘Although a number of old buildings have been damaged, the fundamental heart of the town, like its people, is robust,’ she added.
Ms Branson urged holidaymakers to continue with their holiday plans to the country, saying that money from the tourism industry would be vital for the rebuilding efforts of communities left devastated by Friday’s 6.8 magnitude earthquake.
The epicentre of the quake struck in Al Haouz province, around 45 miles south of Marrakesh. The province is home to small communities high up in the Atlas mountains, as well as Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot hotel.
The region is largely rural, made up of red-rock mountains, picturesque gorges and glistening streams and lakes. Small hamlets are dotted through the hills.
Marrakesh itself also experiencing strong shakes that caused rubble to fall into the streets and alleyways.
‘All the international hotels and most riads are strong enough to stay in,’ Ms Branson said. ‘My message is: don’t cancel your holidays. You will come to a country where the true resilience and beauty of the people is shining through the crisis.’
Ms Branson’s plea came as the footage, verified by the Associated Press and showing the damage to the Kasbah Tamadot, was posted online.
The short clip showed a doorway with rubble on the ground, and damage to the castle-like turrets above, some of which teetered on the brink of collapse.
Volunteers dig in the rubble of collapsed houses in the village of Imi N’Tala near Amizmiz in central Morocco after the deadly 6.8-magnitude, September 10, 2023
Family members embrace in the rubble of collapsed buildings in Morocco, September 10
A woman is overcome with emotion at the site of collapsed buildings in Morocco, Sept. 10
Meanwhile on Monday, rescuers faced a growing race against time to dig any survivors from the rubble of devastated villages in the surrounding hills.
The country’s strongest-ever earthquake has so far claimed more than 2,100 lives and injured over 2,400, many seriously, according to official figures.
Rabat on Sunday announced it had accepted aid offers from four foreign nations, while many other countries have also said they were willing to send assistance.
Authorities have responded favourably ‘at this stage’ to offers from Britain, Spain, Qatar and the UAE ‘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 because ‘a lack of coordination could be counterproductive’.
Other offers may be accepted in the future ‘if the needs evolve’, according to the ministry.
France was willing to provide aid ‘the second’ Morocco requested it, President Emmanuel Macron said.
A Qatari aid flight left from Al-Udeid air base outside Doha on Sunday evening, an AFP journalist said.
Spain has sent 86 rescuers and eight search dogs to Morocco to ‘help in the search and rescue of survivors of the devastating earthquake suffered in our neighbouring country’, said a defence ministry statement.
‘We will send whatever is needed because everyone knows that these first hours are key, especially if there are people buried under rubble,’ Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles told public television.
A woman cries and is consoled by family as volunteers recover the body of a family member of collapsed houses in the village of N’Tala, in central Morocco, September 10
A volunteer prays near the rubble of collapsed buildings in the village of Imi N’Tala
People walk past a partially collapsed building on September 10, 2023 in Ouirgane, Morocco
The earthquake wiped out entire villages in the hills of the Atlas mountain range, where civilian rescuers and members of Morocco’s armed forces have searched for survivors and the bodies of the dead.
Many houses in remote mountain villages were built from mud bricks.
The remote village of Tafeghaghte, 40 miles from Marrakesh in Al-Haouz province, was almost entirely destroyed, with very few buildings still standing.
‘Everyone is gone! My heart is broken. I am inconsolable,’ cried Zahra Benbrik, 62, who said she had lost 18 relatives.
Authorities recorded more than 1,300 deaths in Al-Haouz province alone.
According to Moroccan public television, ‘more than 18,000 families have been affected’ by the quake in Al-Haouz, site of its epicentre.
The education ministry announced that classes in the worst-hit villages of Al-Haouz were ‘suspended’, and schools would not be open from Monday.
Citizens on Sunday rushed to hospitals in Marrakesh to donate blood to help the injured while many mobilised to help those affected.
Some parts of Marrakesh’s historic medina and its network of alleyways saw significant damage, with mounds of rubble and crumpled buildings.
The kingdom has declared three days of national mourning.
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.
I am Rakesh Sharma, I associated with Elite News as an Editor, since 2021. I take care of all the news operations like content, budget, hiring and policy making.