Morocco earthquake kills over 1000 people

9th September 2023

A powerful earthquake about 50 miles from the Moroccan city of Marrakesh has killed over 1000 people, according to Moroccan authorities engaged in a frantic effort to rescue survivors.

Morocco’s Interior Ministry said early Saturday that the victims had died after the earthquake struck in the High Atlas Mountains shortly after 11 p.m. and that hundreds more had been transported to hospitals with injuries.

In Gibraltar, relatives of a group of four young people from the Rock on holiday in Marrakesh lived hours of anguish as the news filtered through late last night.

All four are safe and managed to make their way to Tangier in a taxi and then to Tarifa by ferry, but described scenes of horror in phone conversations with their families as they worked out what to do in the hours immediately after the earthquake.

Zhané Vassallo and her partner Ferran Cañadillas Castells, two GHA workers, were staying in the Riad Niza together with Hannah Alba, also a GHA employee, and Jasmeen Kaur for a short break.

The couple were dining nearby when the earthquake struck and had to climb over rubble in narrow alleyways of a souq to retrieve belongings including a passport.

A photo taken by Zhané and sent to her family [above] shows the damage just metres from where they were staying.

Jessica Vassallo Segui, Zhané’s mum, said the group initially made its way to the airport, both for safety and to try to get a flight out of the city.

But all flights were cancelled and they were stranded at the airport.

Ms Vassallo Segui and her husband, Steven Segui, prepared to set off to Morocco to drive south and collect them but before they could leave, a call from the group confirmed they had found a taxi to drive them to Tangier.

By dawn they were past Casablanca on their way to Tangier for a ferry to Tarifa, where they arrived late afternoon to be reunited with their relatives who were waiting for them.

“They’re all OK thank God, but she told me they’ve had a really rough time,” Ms Vassallo Segui told the Chronicle, speaking early on Saturday morning.

“It’s hit me when I’ve seen the news and I’ve seen over 600 people have died.”

“I thought to myself, my God, my daughter and her friends have been so lucky, they’ve had a guardian angel.”

Another Gibraltar resident, Noemi Jimenez, had been due to leave Marrakesh on Friday night at 10.10pm but her Ryanair flight to Malaga was delayed by about an hour.

The earthquake hit just as it was taking off.

“As we were taking off, we heard a very loud noise, it was like an explosion,” she said.

“We thought it was the plan at first but then someone shouted ‘look, look’.”

“We could see lights flickering and buildings moving.”

“I don’t know how to explain it.”

It was only when they landed that they began to understand what had happened.

Ms Jimenez had been on a three-day team building event with colleagues from work, some of whom extended their trip and were still in Marrakesh.

All are safe but in calls and messages to colleagues described distressing scenes on the ground.

They had spent the night outside by their hotel pool and were hoping to be able to fly back on Sunday.

Ms Jimenez is still in shock and worried for her colleagues on the ground, but knows how lucky she and the others on the plane had been.

“We missed it by minutes,” she said, now back in Gibraltar.

“Just another few minutes and we’d still be there.”

The earthquake, measured at a 7.2 magnitude by Morocco’s own seismic agency, toppled several buildings across cities in southern Morocco and sent people running from their homes late at night.

Morocco’s interior ministry said the tremors hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant.

The epicentre of the earthquake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz province, roughly 43 miles south of Marrakesh.

Videos shared on social media showed people running out of restaurants and apartment buildings and congregating outside as rubble fell from buildings, some of which collapsed entirely.

A British journalist living in Morocco said he was woken up by the sound of his wife screaming as an earthquake shook his home.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Martin Jay said: “The first hint was my wife screaming,” he said.

“We both had nodded off to sleep – but not into deep sleep – just into that light slumber I suppose… and she started screaming, and I just sort of opened my eyes and couldn’t quite join the dots up.

“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.”

At least 1,037 people died, mostly in Marrakech and five provinces near the quake’s epicentre, and another 1,204 people were injured, Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported on Saturday. Of the injured, the ministry wrote, 721 were in critical condition.

But the full death toll of the most powerful quake to hit Morocco in 120 years will not be known until rescuers complete the challenging journey to the remote mountain villages that were the hardest hit.

Joanna Faure Walker, Professor of earthquake geology and head of the UCL Institute of Disaster Risk Reduction, said it was likely to rise.

“When an earthquake occurs at night, people can be particularly vulnerable as getting out of their homes and navigating rubbles and debris in the dark adds to risk of injury and getting trapped,” she said.

“The early death toll figures are likely to increase significantly as early information is limited and rescue efforts are ongoing.”

In Gibraltar, government contingency officials were ready to liaise with other Gibraltarians in Marrakesh at the time of the earthquake to assist them.

Although there are no exact figures as yet, the indications are that there were numerous Gibraltar residents in the Moroccan city for the long weekend.

On Saturday morning, the Government of Gibraltar expressed its sympathy and solidarity with Morocco and its people, offering any assistance it can give to the Moroccan authorities.

Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said: “The news of the earthquake and, regrettably, the significant loss of life and damage that has occurred as a consequence, is news that will be received by all of us here in Gibraltar with much sadness.”

“The Government of Gibraltar, for itself and on behalf of the people of Gibraltar, wishes to convey our thoughts and prayers to our friends and neighbours to the south and, in particular, to our wonderful Moroccan community here at home.”

“I regrettably expect that there will be those in our community today who find themselves affected by grief and loss, and I wish to send them both our heartfelt condolences and the help we might be able to offer.”

“I have today written to King Mohammed VI, to offer our help to the Kingdom and country of Morocco, and to express our support for all those caught up in this tragedy.”

As the UK offered assistance too, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his thoughts are with everyone affected by the “terrible” earthquake.

“The UK stands ready to support our Moroccan friends,” the Prime Minister wrote on social media, in a message that echoed that of Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

Mr Cleverly pledged support in “whatever way we can”.

The Foreign Office updated its advice to Britons in the country, telling them to “follow local media and safety instructions from local authorities”.

On Saturday afternoon the Gibraltar Government issued further advice to anyone in Gibraltar concerned about relatives or friends in Morocco.

The Moroccan community in Gibraltar also organised a vigil outside No6 Convent Place, attendees include Mr Picardo, the Governor, Vice Admiral, Sir David Steel, UK MPs who were visiting for the National Day rally, Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi and Steven Marin from the Gibraltar Morocco Business Association.

Residents of Gibraltar who are concerned about family or friends who may have been affected by the earthquake in Morocco and who they haven’t heard from should contact the British Embassy in Rabat for support and advice on +212 (0) 537 633 333.

The Royal Gibraltar Police is unable to provide consular assistance but may be able to redirect queries to the British Embassy in Rabat. The RGP control room number is 200 72500.

Further advice is available via the UK FCDO website: with-a-crisis-overseas

EDITOR'S NOTE: An early version of this story wrongly said the group had found a taxi to take them to Marrakesh to catch a ferry to Tarifa or Algaciras. It should have read Tangier, and the article has been corrected.

There are lots of Morocans in Gibraltar; and some even work in Gibraltar and take the ferry back to Morocco on weekends.

Made me think of the Signs of the Times

Luke 21:11 And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven ("Bright Clouds").

A rare and powerful earthquake toppled buildings and killed at least 2,000 people in Morocco. Seismology and geophysics expert John Cassidy explains what made this particular quake so destructive and deadly.

Moorish Castle lit up in green tonight in solidarity and sympathy with Morocco as it began three days of mourning. The Tower of Homage symbolises the deep roots that bind the Gibraltar and Moroccan communities.

The UK deploys emergency response teams to Morocco to assist with Moroccan led rescue efforts. Sixty UK search and rescue specialists, four search dogs and rescue equipment deployed to Morocco following 6.8 magnitude earthquake. The UK International Search and Rescue team (UKISAR) respond to disasters on behalf of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. UK deploys search and rescue teams to Morocco following earthquake - GOV.UK

British and Spanish Rescue Teams have arrived.

Spain has sent 86 rescuers and eight search dogs to Morocco to "help in the search and rescue of survivors of the devastating earthquake suffered in our neighbouring country". “It is a sign of Spanish solidarity and of the sense of friendship that unites the people of Spain with the people of Morocco,” Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel Albares told Catalunya Radio - Morocco leads earthquake rescue with many nations offering support | Morocco | The Guardian

Some rescuers came from Tarifa (Cadiz) – After Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez affirmed that “Spain stands by the victims of the tragedy of the violent earthquake that struck Morocco,” a team from the Spain Foundation (SAMU) arrived in Morocco from Tarifa through the port of Tangier, consisting of ten members equipped with dogs, on board four ambulances. - Spanish support and rescue teams arrive in Marrakesh to assist Morocco in quake aftermath


15th September 2023

by Maria Jesus Corrales

Moisés Delgado was the leader of a rescue team of firemen from the province of Cádiz dispatched to Morocco in the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck the Marrakesh-Safi region last week.

Recently returned to Spain and speaking to the Chronicle, Mr Delgado was visibly emotional as he recalled the fruitless search for survivors.

“It hurts to think of how you arrive with hope that you can help, and you see the people realising that you are their last chance, and you find that you cannot do anything,” he said.

“I was their last hope and I could do no more,” he said, on the verge of tears.

The earthquake, recorded at 6.8 on the Richter Scale, literally levelled the small mudbrick villages on the upper slopes of the Atlas Mountains.

When buildings made of concrete collapse, some pillars, beams and walls can maintain their structure and form voids by holding back the rubble above.

Survivors in these voids can stay alive for a substantial amount of time, which grants rescuers a window of opportunity to dig through and pull them out.

The chances of finding survivors are slim, but it is that hope that keeps rescue teams going.

But when the team from Cádiz arrived, the six men and five dogs discovered that, no matter how long they pored over the debris, there were no signs of life under the rubble.

“Everything had been literally levelled,” Mr Delgado said.

With Moroccan state media reporting 2,901 deaths and 5,530 people injured, this is the highest toll of lives the country has lost to a seismic event since the 1960 Agadir earthquake.

On the night of Friday, September 8, the news of the disaster reached Spain and firefighters and rescuers were put on alert.

“My station leader was contacting people on the ground [in the earthquake zone], working with the Amigos del Pueblo Marroquí [Friends of the Moroccan People] association,” Mr Delgado says.

After hurriedly checking equipment and packing their vehicles, the chosen rescue teams were waiting at the Port of Algeciras or at their respective fire stations on Saturday, the day the Moroccan government gave the go-ahead.

The next day, the teams began to move, with the first teams making the Strait crossing that day.

At this point, Mr Delgado says, it is important to highlight the support of three ferry companies.

“I want to express my gratitude for their help, because they offered return tickets to all the aid workers.”

After disembarking, they drove to their first contact point, south of the Atlas Mountain range.

“Our contact on the ground, himself in contact with the Moroccan government, took us to the villages where we were going to work.”

“They took us to hamlets, tiny clusters of buildings in the mountain valleys with houses on the slopes.”

The team had travelled many kilometres on dangerous roads and tracks along broken mountainsides, fallen rocks blocking their path and forcing interminable tailbacks of cars and rescue vehicles.

“You didn’t see much damage in the cities,” Mr Delgado says, “but, once you got into the mountains, everything was shattered, levelled.”

“In these tiny hamlets, everybody was part of the family, or they were very closely knit, like a clan.”

And there, he recalls, “it wasn’t that there weren’t any voids in the rubble, it was that an avalanche of building materials had left nothing standing.”

“In each location we went to, and in the villages other teams visited, we all spoke of the same result: there were no trapped survivors, only dead bodies or empty homes.”

“In one of them, we pulled out the body of a woman. Her mother was also dead and her father and two sons survived. This had happened to the majority of families there.”

This trail of death and destruction was what the Spanish rescue teams found as they spent two days “in the villages that we had been sent to cover.”

“We told our contact to find concrete buildings, where there still could be survivors [in voids], but the orders he’d been given specified this zone for our teams.”

The majority of the emergency rescuers left Morocco on September 13 after fruitless searching.

“I have worked on many disasters under different conditions, but if you are working in areas of mudbrick buildings in mountainous terrain, it is very difficult to find survivors,” Mr Delgado explains.

“We spent a day driving by car and, once there, when you see that you cannot do what people are praying you can do, it hits you hard.”

“It hurts to think of how you arrive with hope that you can help, and you see the people realising that you are their last chance, and you find that you cannot do anything.”

But Mr Delgado was struck by the welcome his team received in Morocco.

“I was moved by the fact that people who I had never met would move aside to let us through. And they told us: ‘My friend, thanks for coming to help’.”

After two days of fruitless searching, the majority of the emergency rescuers left Morocco on September 13 after.

Now that the chances of finding survivors have dwindled to nothing, the aid workers on the ground are not first responders looking for survivors, but teams offering infrastructural assistance.

Units like Spain’s Military Emergencies Unit are helping recover bodies and providing medical services.

They will also be erecting tents for the survivors who have been left homeless by the disaster.

“They don’t dare return to what is left standing and have made little shacks of reeds and blankets as shelters,” Mr Delgado says.

“In other places, they won’t even have a roof, just simply wrapping a blanket around themselves.”

“If that were to happen here, society would break down. We are not accustomed to such hardships.”

“They live a hard life there, moving around with little donkeys for transport, and working and living off what the land provides.”

“Many of them travel on foot, they don’t even have enough for a bicycle, but they endure with what little they earn.”

Mr Delgado is certain that the survivors will forge their own way forward after this catastrophe.

“They’ll make it because they are hardy people.”

Just as in Gibraltar, the Campo de Gibraltar’s the Moroccan community mobilised itself to send aid to the victims of the earthquake.

The Asociación Intercultural Saladillo and the Masjid Al-Rahman association, as well as groups from Ceuta, have joined forces to collect goods for the people worst affected by the disaster.

They are asking the public to donate vital supplies, such as medicines, blankets, warm clothing, nappies and sanitary goods, babymilk, kitchen utensils and camping equipment.

“We are making a call for the support of everyone,” spokesperson for the Islamic community in Algeciras Dris Mohammed said.

All the donated items will be transported in two large trucks over the coming week to Morocco.

Gibraltar's St Bernard’s Upper Primary School Morocco Earthquake Appeal


St. Bernard’s Upper Primary School held a red and green day last Monday, where children dressed in the colours of the Moroccan flag in order to raise money for the Morocco Earthquake Appeal Fund.

The pupils managed to raise a total of £500, which has been donated to the Gibraltar Straits Association in aid of the appeal fund and will go towards helping the victims of the earthquake in our neighbouring country.

Steven Marin, from the Straits of Gibraltar Association, said that they were leaving on Friday with a team of professionals, including doctors and nurses, to assess what was urgently required and the Association will be putting the money donated to very good use. They were extremely grateful and appreciative of the fundraising efforts of our children.

While Spain and the UK are among countries helping Morocco, this article goes into reason why Morocco is refusing help from others. Just a side note - Morocco relations is important to Gibraltar.

Marrakesh Earthquake death toll rises while Morocco refuses aid from numerous nations

by K. Barrett Bilali

So far, the Moroccan government has only accepted aid from the UK, Spain, UAE and Qatar. Senegal, a West African nation, sent a search and rescue team which has assisted local gendarmes and Moroccan first responders.

Other countries, such as the US and France, have been completely ignored by Morocco.

US - "American aid always comes with strings attached."
France - "we don’t need their help because they stabbed us in the back.”

I interviewed corporate executives, teachers, students and the random man on the street. As a result, I found some interesting comments and opinions.

I have found that the Moroccan government is serious about its sovereignty.

The Moroccan sense of community brings with it a stronger sense of self-reliance.

It will take time, but they will rebuild the roads and infrastructure damage the kingdom will maintain its sovereignty and continue its rich legacy and history.

Muslim Youth of Gibraltar & Maroc Atlas Gib 4x4 set off for Marrakech to assist in earthquake relief effort

The Muslim Youth of Gibraltar and Maroc Atlas Gib 4x4 have set off for Marrakech to assist in the disaster relief effort following last month's devastating earthquake.