British tourists describe ‘terrifying’ moment quake hit

Tourists in Marrakesh have been speaking to the BBC about their experience of the strong earthquake that struck central Morocco.

Samantha and her daughter Jessica are currently staying in a riad – a traditional Moroccan house – in the Palais Bahia part of city.

They were evacuated to a nearby square when the quake hit, and spent the night there with hundreds of locals.

Samantha said there was a strong community spirit.

The 6.8 magnitude quake struck at 23:11 local time on Friday and thousands of people have died.

The epicentre was in the High Atlas Mountains, 71km (44 miles) south-west of Marrakesh, at a depth of 18.5km, the US Geological Survey said.

It was followed by a 4.9 aftershock 19 minutes later.

‘Debris everywhere’

“Our riad has survived but the roofs of the buildings around us have all crumbled and the house next door has collapsed,” Samantha said.

“There is an enormous amount of building debris everywhere and lots of the alleyways are blocked.”

She said other English tourists she has met want to get home safely but “flight prices are rising exorbitantly by the hour”.

‘People were panicking’

Caitlin and Jamie Faulkner, from Wigtownshire, Dumfries and Galloway. are at the end of their honeymoon in Marrakesh. They said the earthquake was a surreal experience.

They were at a pool party that ended at 23:00, and when the quake happened, Caitlin said “we thought they’d turned the music back on. It sounded like bass but with no music”.

Then the power went out.

“In the UK you don’t get taught how to deal with these things,” Ms Faulkner said.

“It wasn’t until we got out and there was everything in darkness and people were panicking. There’s been a bit of damage to the hotel but it’s a new build and overall it’s okay.

“Only yesterday we were walking around the medina and today we’re looking at them full of rubble.”

She said they were told it was safe to return to their accommodation at 1.30am.

“When we woke up, every sun lounger was filled with pillows and duvets. A lot of people slept outside.”

‘Buildings had collapsed around us’

Clara Bennett, 21, a chemical engineering student from Hampshire, is visiting the city with her parents and brother.

“I was just brushing my teeth and the whole floor shook. There was a roar. It was terrifying,” she recalled.

Luckily, the riad where they were staying was not damaged. “We came out on the street. Buildings had collapsed around us,” she said.

To get out of the old town, “they had to go through the alleyways into the rubble to get into an open space”.

“We came back to the riad when we made sure it was safe,” she added.

“There was a great sense of community, people carrying disabled people, handing out water and food.”

The family are worried about getting home. “We’ve tried to get flights out, but everything is fully booked. We’d like to know what to do next and what help is available,” Ms Bennett said.

A woman sitting outside in Marrakesh after an earthquake hit

Many people left their homes and spent the rest of the night outside, in fear of more aftershocks

‘I saw rocks coming down’

Aza Lemmer, who works in global transactions in London, is on holiday in Marrakesh with his mother.

He was out walking when he heard and felt the earthquake. He managed to wake up a few residents in the riad where he was staying and they all went to safety.

“I was walking through the souk back towards the riad and heard a blast, thinking it was a terror attack at first,” he said.

“I could feel the ground vibrating. I saw rocks coming down and then realised it was an earthquake.

“A house I just passed a few seconds earlier started to fall down.” He said he hoped to fly back to the UK on Saturday.

Waitress ‘in shock’

Hollie and her partner Jack are also on holiday in Marrakesh, along with their two friends Sam and Tia.

The group were in a restaurant at the time of the earthquake and had to escape along with staff and other customers.

Hollie explained that her friend Tia, who is a nurse, tended to a waitress “who was in shock and unconscious” after the quake struck.

She said they had pre-booked a taxi, which still managed to get to them and brought them out of the city to safety.

“The day before, we were driving around the Atlas Mountains and we were very, very close to the epicentre of the earthquake.”

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