Jean is still in shock from this shock felt in his basement, Friday evening, at 11:11 p.m. This Frenchman who lives on the Ourika road, 20km from Marrakech, felt “the walls rising”, he says on the phone. “The house was making waves. Seeing it rise 50 cm was frightening, it was like a bad movie,” he continues as the sounds of sirens come through the camera.
In the very touristy Moroccan city, residents and visitors felt the full force of the earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, the epicenter of which was located in the southwest of the city, 320 kilometers away. from the capital, Rabat. On the famous Jemaa-el-Fna square, tourists and onlookers lay on the ground while the great Koutoubia mosque, built in the 12th century, wavered.
“The electricity and the telephone were cut off, I was paralyzed,” continues Jean. How can we move forward when the ground is making waves?” The Frenchman spent the night - fortunately warm - in his garden, and took inventory of the damage on Saturday morning. “The facade is quite damaged, one of the walls is very cracked and seems to have moved forward, and the upper floor was very damaged with a lot of rubble,” he says.
“I still have trouble realizing it,” confides Valérie, a resident of Morocco who was staying with friends in a riad in the medina. This historic heart of Marrakech, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, was particularly affected by the earthquake. “We were dining quietly on the terrace when we felt the shock. It's violent, we feel that it's the earth that is rumbling. We went down and found ourselves in the street, there were a lot of people, everyone was scared,” says the Frenchwoman.
Saturday morning, the Frenchwoman had still not returned to her apartment. "I don't know what state he is in." Like her, many residents of Marrakech slept outside, with friends, on the Jemaa-el-Fna square or in the gardens of villas or parks.
Maria* and her husband, who have chosen Marrakech as their holiday destination, consider themselves lucky to have chosen a recent hotel a few kilometers from the medina. Apart from broken windows, the building had no damage. But to get to safety in the garden, the couple had to descend the stairs through a narrow corridor. "We felt like we were in Indiana Jones with the walls closing behind us," says the Frenchwoman with humor. Stating that the surprise was such that her husband "didn't have time to grab a pair of underwear"...
Contacted by Le Figaro, the French Embassy in Morocco, which opened a listening cell, indicated on Saturday morning that it had already received more than 500 calls, and that these are increasing hour by hour. “The majority are worried people, either residents of Morocco who inquire about the arrangements in place, or friends in France who are worried about their loved ones”, specifies the embassy. No French national has yet been officially identified among the victims. "It's still too early," said the embassy, explaining that the listening unit should identify possible French or Franco-Moroccan victims.
Also read: Earthquake in Morocco: tourists can postpone their departure until September 11
If the damage in the medina is significant, the areas around the city and in the Atlas, with more precarious constructions, have been even more affected, reports Jean-Pierre Champert, director of a tourism agency. "In Moulay Brahim (in the province of Al-Haouz, epicenter of the earthquake, editor's note), many houses are on the ground, and the road leading to Imlil was cut by a landslide".
From the early hours of Saturday, the professional received several requests for group cancellations for his mountain tours. “I understand that people don't want to see villages damaged, but now is the time to support them. As soon as we cancel a group, there are 10 to 20 people, guide, mule driver, transporter, etc. who no longer have an income, he points out. Now is not the time to let people down.”
*The first name has been changed.