British tourists describe ‘terrifying’ moment quake hit

Tourists in Marrakesh have been talking to the BBC about their experience of the powerful earthquake that occurred in the center of Morocco.

Samantha and her daughter Jessica currently live in a riad – a traditional Moroccan house – in the Palais Bahia section of the city.

They were taken to a nearby village when the earthquake hit, and they spent the night there with hundreds of civilians.

Samantha says there is a strong community spirit.

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

The epicenter is 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.

‘Garbage everywhere’

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

“There is a lot of debris everywhere and many roads are blocked.”

He said other British tourists he had met wanted to get home safely but “flight prices were rising by the hour”.

‘People are afraid’

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 earthquake happened, Caitlin said “we thought they were going to turn the music back on. It’s like a bass but without the music”.

Then the power goes out.

“In the UK you’re not taught how to deal with these things,” Ms Faulkner said.

“It wasn’t until we got out and everything was dark and people were scared. There was some damage to the hotel but it was newly built and it was good.

“Yesterday we only walked around the medina and today we saw them full of dust.”

He said they were told it was not safe to return to their residence at 1.30am.

“When we wake up, every sun lounger is filled with pillows and duvets. Many people sleep outside.”

‘Buildings are collapsing around us’

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

“I was just brushing my teeth and swallowing the whole floor. There was a fever. It was scary,” he recalled.

Fortunately, the Riad they stayed in was not damaged. “We went out on the street. Buildings collapsed around us,” he said.

To get out of the old city, “they have to go through the roads into the desert to get into the open space”.

“We came back to the riad when we were sure he was safe,” he added.

“Great understanding of our community, people who carry the disabled, give water and food.”

Our family is worried about getting home. “We have tried to get the planes out, but everything is full. We want to know what to do next and what help is available,” Ms Bennett said.

A woman sits outside in Marrakesh after an earthquake struck

Many people left their homes and spent the rest of the night outside, fearing more earthquakes

‘I see rocks coming down’

Aza Lemmer, who works in international business in London, is on holiday in Marrakesh with her mother.

He was walking when he heard and felt earthquakes. He manages to wake up a few residents in the riad where he lives and they all go to safety.

“I walked 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 shaking, I saw rocks coming down and then knew it was an earthquake.

“A building I passed a few minutes ago began to collapse.” He said he hoped to fly back to the UK on Saturday.

Waiter ‘surprised’

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

The group was in a restaurant during the earthquake and had to escape with the other employees and customers.

Hollie explained that her friend Tia, who is a nurse, was kept at the hospital “in shock and unconscious” after the earthquake struck.

He said they had already hailed a taxi, which also managed to reach them and take them out of town to safety.

“The day before, we had driven around the Atlas Mountains and we were very, very close to the site of the earthquake.”

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