Morocco earthquake death toll hits 2,500, foreign rescue teams arrive

Moroccan earthquake death toll hits 2,500 and foreign rescue teams join race against time to dig out survivors as footage shows terrifying moment it caused buildings to collapse around fleeing civilians

  •  Morocco’s strongest-ever earthquake has so far claimed 2,497 lives

Morocco’s strongest-ever earthquake has so far claimed 2,497 lives and injured thousands, with foreign teams today joining the intensifying race against time to rescue any remaining survivors in flattened mountain villages. 

Terrifying footage shows the moment people ran for their lives as Marrakech was rocked by the powerful 6.8 magnitude quake on Friday, 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 it 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 tremors 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

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

Volunteers search for survivors in the rubble in the village of Talat N’Yacoub, south of Marrakech

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

A search worker in Tinmel, Morocco stands next to a destroyed house in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake

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

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. Videos also show dust emanating from parts of the Koutoubia Mosque, one of the city’s best known historic sites. 

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. 

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

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.

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.

Survivors of 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. 

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.

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.

Dozens of people continued to sleep outdoors overnight in the modern quarter of Marrakech. Some stretched out on the median strip of Mohamed VI Avenue. Others lay at the foot of their parked cars.

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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