More than 2,000 killed by earthquake near Marrakech, Morocco

* Morocco’s King Mohammed VI declared three days of mourning and ordered mosques nationwide to hold funeral prayers on Sunday

* In Marrakech, a popular and historic tourist city, many residents spent a second night sleeping on the streets, too afraid to return to their homes

* The city’s historic walls, first laid out in the early 12th century, have been damaged


Rescuers in Morocco are still searching for survivors from Friday’s powerful earthquake as more than 2,000 people are confirmed dead, making it the country’s deadliest quake in years.


The worst damage and destruction has been in isolated mountain areas which are difficult to access. Residents have described whole villages suffering damage with rescuers unable to retrieve bodies from rubble.

Rescue efforts to help those caught near the epicenter of the 6.8-magnitude earthquake were ongoing Sunday, with members of the army, police and civil defense arriving overnight. Many of the villages in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains close to the epicenter of the quake are isolated and difficult to access, hampering operations. 

The scale of the quake’s impact is still becoming clear, but eyewitnesses CNN spoke to on Saturday gave a sense of the destruction.

Fatima, 50, told CNN her house in the town of Asni in the foothills of the High Atlas mountain range was destroyed in the earthquake: “I barely got the chance to grab the kids and run out before I saw my house collapsing in front of my eyes. The neighbor’s house has also collapsed and there are two dead people under the rubble.”

Mustapha Louaanabi, who also lives in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, described the moment the earthquake struck, saying there were “loud, deafening noises” and it felt as if “a train was passing right in the middle of the living room”.  

His family fled outside, where they stayed for the rest of the night as aftershocks continued until 8am local time (3am ET). “Nobody slept all night because of the aftershocks and the noise of these shocks created panic,” he said.

Louaanabi’s house survived the quake, but a town nearby has been razed to the ground and locals are unable to retrieve bodies from under the rubble, he said.


Mohamed, from Asni village in Alhouz, at the foothills of Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, told CNN that almost all of the houses in his area had been damaged by the earthquake. 

While he and his family managed to get out during the night, others were not so lucky. Mohamed told CNN his neighbor “lost” his two children — a boy and a girl.   

Rescue efforts have been redirected to other nearby areas where the damage is much worse than his village, he added.  

Around 1,404 survivors still remain in a critical condition, according to Morocco’s state TV Al Aoula. Not since 2004 has the country seen a comparable disaster, when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the port city of Al Hoceima — which left around 630 people dead and caused widespread damage.

Morocco’s worst earthquake of modern times was in 1960 near the western city of Agadir which killed at least 12,000 people.

Nationwide funeral prayers

Morocco’s King Mohamed VI has ordered mosques nationwide to hold funeral prayers, known as ‘Janazah’ prayers, at noon on Sunday while flags were flown at half-mast in the country, state news agency said.

On Saturday, Moroccans flocked onto hospitals and centers to donate blood as part of a nationwide call to help those injured in the deadly earthquake. 

The Regional Blood Transfusion Center of Marrakech launched an appeal for citizens to donate blood following the earthquake.

State and local media showed videos of people donating blood at centers across the country.

“It felt like I was falling through the ground”

As the sun came up in Marrakech on Sunday, the true scale of people’s fear became clear. Many were waking up in the city’s parks, squares and large parking lots.

They were too afraid to go inside, fearing another earthquake could cause the already damaged buildings to collapse.


Moustapha Shweirgi slept on the floor next to his market stall at Jemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s main square. He was napping in a chair on Sunday morning after spending the night lying on a thin blanket next to his friend and fellow market trader.

When the earthquake hit late on Friday, he felt like someone was trying to knock him over: “First I heard an odd noise and then suddenly it felt like I was falling through the ground,” he told CNN. 

People around him were screaming, panicking. The famous Jemaa el-Fna square is at the heart of the medina, Marakech’s historical quarter, and gets very busy at night. There are dozens of food stalls and musicians, competing for the attention of the many tourists who flock to the place in the evenings. 

When the quake hit, people were still out and about. Shweirgi said he saw people trying to hang onto the railings and tables on the first floor terrace of a cafe just in front on him. 

He said he managed to stay on his feet, but only just. “And then the mosque started to fall down,” he said.


Outside a damaged mosque, Zined Hatimi recalled the terror of Friday night: “People were inside praying and they started running out, nobody was staying inside,” the 53 year old said. Like many others, she was too scared to go home. 

Hatimi, 53, slept in a central Marrakech park with her entire family, including little children. She said it got cold at night, so they stayed together. 

“Everybody was outside. All of the neighbours, everyone. We don’t want to go inside, everyone is scared, the shaking was so strong,” she said. 

The impact of the earthquake, the largest in the region in 120 years, according to the US Geological Survey, did not feel the same across the city.

Ali, a 67 year old man who runs a small cafe in the Medina, told CNN he did not realize the scale of the destruction immediately. The earthquake woke them up, but it didn’t feel particularly strong so he and his family went back to sleep.


Like many people in less affected areas, Ali only found out about the severity of the situation when he woke up on Saturday morning. 

“We felt it a little, we went back to sleep,” he said. “Our house is an old building, but it wasn’t damaged. All of our neighbours stayed inside too, it was not bad where we live,” he said.  

Ali said he has experienced an earthquake once before, some time in the 1960s when he was a young boy. “It felt similar,” he said.

Adam Smith, 23, a Sheffield man on holiday with his girlfriend in Morocco told the BBC of the moment a huge earthquake hit, saying the hotel in Marrakesh where he and his partner were staying was “shaken to the core”.

“We were winding down to go to sleep,” he explained, when glass began to vibrate. “We grabbed some essential items and ran outside.”

Smith said he and his girlfriend, along with other guests, had gathered near the hotel entrance when a second tremor struck: “We desperately searched for English speakers but we only found a couple of people who spoke broken English.”

“We waited to see if the building would be stable and eventually ran in to retrieve medication and bedding as we faced the prospect of sleeping in the car park for the evening.”—Reporting by Heather Chen, Andrew Raine, Sophie Tanno, Maureen Chowdhury, Celine Alkhaldi, Teele Rebane, Sarah El Sirgany, Mostafa Salem & Ivana Kottasová for CNN in Marrakech