Inside Marrakech: hours after the devastation

Amid a devastating earthquake in Marrakech, Jordan News reports live with insights from locals.

earthquake struck Morocco
(Photos: Ahmad Freihat, Jordan News)
“I watched as the whole hotel quaked, like it was made of cardboard, swinging from side to side.” Widad Bilhaj, a hotelier, was sitting outside by her hotel’s swimming pool when the earthquake struck Morocco, she said that the usually peaceful pool was rocking like it was a turbulent sea, nearly a foot of its water was emptied by the shakes. Meanwhile, she waited outside as her husband rushed into the building to lead anyone asleep outside. اضافة اعلان

It was also astonishing how long it lasted. The quake endured for nearly a minute, a duration that felt uncomfortably extended when experiencing the powerful tremors it produced, leaving one feeling unsteady.

A sound of explosions, complete darknessAnother interviewee, who wishes to remain anonymous, recounted waking up to the quakes. At first, there was fear of something even more severe occurring. They described the loud, recurrent bangs, resembling a series of explosions, each one sounding as if it originated right beneath their feet. Their room was plunged into complete darkness due to the power cuts, adding to the confusion. If they could see anything, they would look around frantically, much like I did, only to witness everything shaking—a slow realization that an earthquake had struck.

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What had actually happened?
In the hours following the quake, every person found themselves making and receiving dozens of phone calls, checking on the well-being of their friends and family. The calls served a dual purpose: to seek an understanding of what had transpired and to gauge the scale of the event, trying to discern if it was even real. Each subsequent call offered some degree of confirmation amid the bewildering late-night chaos.

Many today reported the misinformation that was spread merely hours before, the constantly oscillating Richter scale figures, and, most important for them was where the epicenter was. Early reports had people saying that Agadir was the point of origin, then the figure moved to south-west of Agadir, between it and Marrakech; most people learned this morning of the actual center being from the Atlas Mountains, Marrakech and its surrounding towns and villages having been hit the hardest.

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Many we spoke to spoke of hearing news and panicking, if it was this severe a quake in Marrakech, how severe must it be in the falsely claimed epicenters they had heard of?

Numerical information insignificant to the pressing questions
As time passed, news sites began to provide coverage, revealing the magnitude of the earthquake on the Richter scale (6.8). However, this numerical information seemed insignificant in comparison to the pressing questions: Were everyone's loved ones safe? Had any homes collapsed? Social media became the next destination for answers.

But for some this was not possible. In many parts of Marrakech, the power went out. During his interview with Jordan News, Elias Hinde, a cardiologist, said that he watched as fuse boxes in his neighborhood were going alight, seeing the occasional pop in the distance, especially apparent in the blacked-out horizon due to the power cuts. There was no internet for many, and so any without network connectivity were in the dark, unable to find any information on what had happened.

A beautiful sky amidst a devastating scene
This was all contrasted by everyone stepping outside with what belongings they felt they needed, staring up at the sky, which was shockingly beautiful. The stars were out, with the arm of the milky way shining above us.

A wall had collapsed in their homes
Meanwhile, Sofian Boumhicha, a waiter from Marrakech, told Jordan News about the events in downtown Marrakech, the oldest part of the city. Some of his friends had to call their workplaces to inform them they could not be in today as a wall had collapsed in their homes.

On Friday night, the police in the old town went door to door, urging everyone to stay outdoors, as they anticipated a second earthquake. In fact, two more tremors were felt, but fortunately, they were minor and caused little to no damage. Public schools were opened up to provide outdoor spaces for people, and as I drove around Marrakech this morning, I saw hundreds of people with mattresses outside, suddenly fearful of being under a roof.

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Many are anxious about Marrakech’s historical sites
Many are also anxious about Marrakech's historical sites. A video went viral showing Jemaa el-Fna, an 11th-century mosque, wobbling and cracking during the earthquake. Thankfully, this historic site will remain standing, albeit slightly less stable. However, another mosque in the same square did collapse. While not as ancient, it held significant importance as part of the largest square in Marrakech, which welcomes millions of visitors every year.

Nowhere has escaped the large cracks running down its walls
As I toured the city of Marrakech today, it became evident that nowhere has escaped the large cracks running down its walls. The tremors have left many residents shaken, with each person making and receiving dozens of phone calls to check on their family and friends. The bulk of the significant damage is actually not in the urban centers, but in the high mountainous areas, their villages and small towns. Within the city the damage was limited to the old town, its historical significance being a double-edged sword, compounded by the density of these city districts where no structures adhere to modern building codes.

But fortunately, this morning the markets were still operational, and also busy. The damage was limited to a few buildings rather than being a general widespread destruction, and people continued with their daily lives, collecting and sweeping the rubble in the slim alleyways. Most people were safe, and many we spoke to were mostly grateful the damage was as limited as it was.

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