Morocco earthquake death toll climbs further to beyond 2,000

Morocco earthquake death toll climbs to over 2,000 amid fears number will rise even further as nation declares three days of national mourning and rescuers trawl through rubble in Marrakesh as hopes fade for survivors after massive 6.8 magnitude quake

  • At least 2,012 people died in the horror quake, Morocco’s Interior Ministry said

Morocco has declared three days of national mourning after an earthquake killed at least 2,000 people – with Britons among those missing amid fears the death toll could climb even higher. 

Rescuers trawled through rubble in Marrakesh in the search for survivors after Morocco’s biggest earthquake in over 120 years struck last night.

At least 2,012 people died in the horror quake, Morocco’s Interior Ministry said this evening, with 2,059 people people injured – including 1,404 in critical condition. 

The earthquake, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, struck Morocco’s Atlas Mountains and caused tremors as far away as Portugal, has wiped out entire families as witnesses describe hearing ‘unbearable screaming and crying’ and seeing distraught relatives frantically search with their bare hands for buried loved ones.

One man said dishes and wall hangings began raining down, and people were knocked off their feet. The quake brought down walls made from stone and masonry, covering whole communities with rubble.

Rescuers use a small excavator to search for survivors under the rubble of a collapsed house in Moulay Brahim, Al Haouz province, on September 9

The army recovers the corpses of earthquake victims, in Tafeghaghte, Morocco, earlier today

Rescue workers search for survivors in a collapsed house in Moulay Brahim, Al Haouz province

People gather around the bodies of victims of an earthquake in the mountain village of Tafeghaghte

People mourn in front of the body of a victim killed in an earthquake in Moulay Brahim, Al Haouz province

Members of rescue teams carry the body of a victim of an earthquake in Ouargane village, near Marrakesh, Morocco

A view of a home that was damaged by the earthquake, in Ijjoukak village, near Marrakesh

Relatives were desperately trying to contact three Britons who were staying in Imlil, a remote village in the mountains near the epicentre. Posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, the family of Rebecca Calvert, 65, from Windsor, pleaded with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for help.

Ms Calvert was staying with her friend Hilary McKegney at the Hotel Le Village du Toubkal. Her daughter Katie told Mr Cleverly: ‘We are sick with worry and need your help in finding her and bringing her home safely. Please urgently send British resources to the specific region and urgently provide an update on their whereabouts.’

Another British woman appealed for information on X, writing: ‘My sister and her family are there and I have no news at all about Imlil nor from them.’ Alice Morrison, a British author who lives in Imlil, described the moment the quake struck, writing on her blog: ‘I can hear shouts and screams. One is my own. I am alone in the dark on the moving ground.’

Helen Morris, 37, from Neath, South Wales, and her friend Amy Pritchard, 37, were at the Riu Tikida Garden hotel in Marrakech when paintings fell off the walls. ‘We dived underneath the desk until everything stopped moving… for 30 to 40 seconds,’ Ms Morris said.

Shannon Nolan, 31, from Bristol, who was staying at the Aqua Mirage Marrakech with her sister, their mother and their six children, said: ‘The bed was shaking, the wardrobe was rocking, the TV came off the wall and the mirror in the bathroom smashed. When I stood up to walk it was like I was at sea.’

Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, said he expected the death toll to rise.

Pictures taken just after the earthquake show the amount of dust that remained in the air

An injured child is transported from the health center of Amizmiz to Marrakesh, Morocco,  September 9

A digger rescues a donkey trapped in rubble after an earthquake in the mountain village of Tafeghaghte

The donkey was still alive despite being trapped under mounds of rubble overnight

An injured woman is transported from the health center of Amizmiz to Marrakech

Ambulance workers carefully lifted the woman into vehicle, where she will be transported Marrakech

Moroccans and foreign tourists alike are queuing outside blood donation points to give blood in an effort to assist emergency workers. 

In historic Marrakech, people could be seen on state TV clustering in the streets , afraid to go back inside buildings that might still be unstable. The city’s famous Koutoubia Mosque, built in the 12th century, was damaged, but the extent was not immediately clear. Its 226-foot) minaret is known as the ‘roof of Marrakech.’ Moroccans also posted videos showing damage to parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Most damage occurred outside of cities and towns, and the United States Geological Survey warned that the death toll was likely to rise significantly, because rural buildings were not built to sustain such earthquakes. 

Those in the city posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust, and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakesh damaged. 

In the village of Amizmiz, some 40 miles south of Marrakech, rescue workers picked through the rubble.

‘When I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet and the house leaning, I rushed to get my kids out. But my neighbours couldn’t,’ said Mohamed Azaw. ‘Unfortunately no one was found alive in that family. The father and son were found dead and they are still looking for the mother and the daughter.’

A woman is devastated as she sees her earthquake-damaged house in Marrakesh

Injured people are transported from the health center of Amizmiz to Marrakesh following the horror quake

At least 1,305 people died in the horror quake, Morocco’s Interior Ministry said this evening, with 1,832 people people injured – 1,220 of which are critical

Rescue workers search for survivors in a collapsed house in Moulay Brahim, Al Haouz province

People rescue a donkey trapped under rubble after an earthquake in the mountain village of Tafeghaghte

Moroccans raced to donate blood for those injured after the devastating quake

A man rescues a donkey trapped under rubble after an earthquake in the mountain village of Tafeghaghte

Moroccan medics sort through blood donation bags at a centre in Beni Mellal, around 120 miles from Marrakesh

Injured people are transported from the health center of Amizmiz to Marrakesh following the quake

Hamid Idsalah, a 72-year-old mountain guide, said he and many others remained alive but had little future to look forward to. That was true in the short-term – with remnants of his kitchen reduced to dust – and in the long-term – where he and many others lack the financial means to rebound.

‘I can’t reconstruct my home. I don’t know what I’ll do. Still, I’m alive, so I’ll wait,’ he said as he walked through the desert oasis town overlooking red rock hills, packs of goats and a glistening salt lake. ‘I feel heartsick.’

About 20 men including firefighters and soldiers in fatigues stood atop the ruin of a house in Amizmiz as they tried to remove rubble, bits of carpet and furniture protruding from gaps between pancaked concrete floors.

There are warnings the strong quake means it will take time to reach mountain villages and other smaller settlements outside of Morocco’s cities, meaning the true extent of the damage and people harmed remains unknown. 

Morocco today declared three days of national mourning after the deadly earthquake, an announcement from the royal palace said.

‘Three days of national mourning have been decided, with flags to fly at half-mast on all public buildings,’ said a statement published by the official MAP news agency after King Mohamed VI chaired a meeting to discuss the disaster.

Many of the older buildings in Marrakesh were completely destroyed overnight

A man walks with his belongings through the rubble in an alleyway in the earthquake-damaged old city in Marrakesh

Injured people are transported from the health centre of Amizmiz to Marrakesh

Moroccans and tourists alike have lined up at blood donation points to support the emergency service efforts 

A family sits outside their home after an earthquake in Moulay Brahim village, Morocco

Members of the Royal Armed Forces mobilize to provide support to victims, following a powerful earthquake, in Taroudant, Morocco

World leaders offered to send in aid or rescue crews as condolences poured in from countries in Europe, the Middle East and the Group of 20 summit in India. The president of Turkey, which lost tens of thousands of people in a massive earthquake earlier this year, was among those proposing assistance. France and Germany, with large populations of people of Moroccan origin, also offered to help, and the leaders of both Ukraine and Russia expressed support for Moroccans.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak released a statement which said: ‘My thoughts are with everyone affected by the terrible earthquake in Morocco last night. The UK stands ready to support our Moroccan friends.’ 

The Interior Ministry urged calm, saying in its televised statement on the death toll that the quake had hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant. Officials added that most of those killed will be in hard to reach settlements outside of the cities.

A British journalist living in Morocco described waking up to the sound of his wife screaming as the quake shook their home.

Martin Jay told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had just settled into sleep when the tremor struck.

Authorities say most of the dead are in smaller towns and villages high in the mountains

Two people shelter at a store front rather than risking sleeping in their homes in Marrakesh

Rescue efforts are underway in the country as hundreds require medical attention

A group sits amongst collapsed buildings in the aftermath of the earthquake as recovery efforts begin

Some of the cities oldest buildings have completely collapsed – but it is warned that smaller settlements closest to the epicentre will have been worst-hit

Vehicles caught up in the debris were left completely destroyed

‘The first hint was my wife screaming,’ he said.

‘I couldn’t quite equate the situation, I couldn’t imagine I was in the middle of an earthquake.

‘Everything was vibrating, everything, the bed, the floor, the four walls.’

Part of their home was damaged by the earthquake, with some of the brick walls collapsing from the tremors. 

Speaking to BBC, Jane Felix-Richards, from Cardiff, said they were in the foyer of the hotel when they heard a ‘deep rumble that got increasingly louder’. 

‘The whole building started to violently shake, chandeliers were swinging, plaster was coming off the walls, glasses were being smashed,’ she said.

She said she thought a bomb had gone off and told her family to run. 

The hotel has since said they can stay there, but Ms Felix-Richards said the walls do not look safe and instead slept on sun loungers. 

Rather than return to concrete buildings, men, women and children stayed out in the streets worried about aftershocks and other reverberations that could cause their homes to sway.

Towns close to the epicentre of the quake have been almost completely flattened

Rescuers survey the damage in the small town of Amizmiz, around 55km from Marrakesh

A group of women and children take shelter after the earthquake drove them from their homes

CCTV captured people fleeing from inside buildings as the quake hit

A cracked mosque minaret stands precariously after the quake in Moulay Brahim village

A group of women and children take shelter after the earthquake drove them from their homes

Civil protection members search for survivors buried in the rubble

Frenchman Michael Bizet, 43, shared footage of collapsed buildings in the ancient centre of Marrakech, where he runs three riad holiday homes.

Recalling being woken up by the quake, Mr Bizet said: ‘I thought my bed was going to fly away. I went out into the street half-naked and immediately went to see my riads. It was total chaos, a real catastrophe – absolute madness.’

Mr Bizet’s images showed damage to the world famous Jemaa el-Fna square, which draws thousands of tourists every year.

Hamid Afkir, a teacher who lives closed to the epicentre, near Taroudant, said: ‘The earth shook for about twenty seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor of my house. There were aftershocks too.’

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