Crippling Earthquake in Marrakech: Families Live in Fear and Uncertainty

Many families in Marrakech woke up this Sunday after a second night spent outside, too fearful to sleep in houses that were likely damaged by the powerful earthquake that occurred this Friday evening, the deadliest in over 60 years in Morocco. Besides the damage caused by this earthquake, which has claimed over 2,000 lives, residents of Marrakech are also concerned about aftershocks in the hours and days to come.

Since the earthquake, Mouhamad Ayat Elhaj has been sleeping on the street with his family near the medina, in the historic center of the city, after noticing cracks in the walls of his house. “I can’t sleep here. I’m asking the authorities to help me and bring in an expert to assess whether it’s safe for me to return to the house or not. If there’s any risk, I won’t go back,” said the 51-year-old man to Reuters.

Marrakech is located just a few dozen kilometers from the epicenter of this magnitude 6.8 earthquake, which occurred in a remote mountainous area of the High Atlas. Its medina, usually frequented by foreign and Moroccan tourists, has been partially damaged.

“It really hurts”
On Saturday, onlookers came to take photos of the damage, while other residents gathered in the main square to spend the night. Among them, Noureddine Lahbabi, a 68-year-old retiree and father of four, said the damage to homes was frightening. “It’s a painful experience. When it happens to your brother or sister, it really hurts,” he said.

Mohamed Aithadi, who holds both Moroccan and American citizenship, came to inspect the damage to a mosque in the medina, not far from his mother’s home. He said he was on the main square of the old town when the earthquake struck, and for him, the priority is taking care of the most vulnerable people. “I believe that our people, the Moroccan people, and our Moroccan community can come together and safely navigate through this ordeal,” he said. Outside the medina, other families have resigned themselves to sleeping on vacant lots or by the roadside. Despite her father’s presence, 11-year-old Jowra expressed her unease about having to sleep alongside strangers.”

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