More than 2,100 killed by earthquake near Marrakech, Morocco

By Heather Chen, Andrew Raine, Sophie Tanno, Maureen Chowdhury and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 6:06 AM ET, Mon September 11, 2023
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6:02 a.m. ET, September 11, 2023

Our live coverage of the Morocco earthquake has moved here.

5:44 p.m. ET, September 10, 2023

Morocco's King Mohammed VI thanks several countries for sending aid after earthquake

From CNN’s Eyad Kourdi

King Mohammed VI has thanked Spain, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates for sending aid following the earthquake that struck Morocco, state-run broadcaster Al Aoula said Sunday.

"The Moroccan authorities conducted a careful assessment of the needs in the field, taking into account that a lack of coordination in such cases would be counterproductive," the king said, according to an interior ministry statement posted by state broadcaster 2M.

"On these basis, the Moroccan authorities responded, at this particular stage, to the offers of support made by friendly countries Spain, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, which suggested mobilizing a group of search and rescue teams," he continued. "Moreover, with the progress of interventions, the assessment of potential needs may develop, which may lead to going back to offers of support from other friendly countries, according to the needs of each stage separately."

Some context: While Spain said Sunday that Morocco had officially requested its aid — and that a plane of 56 Spanish rescue personnel had since arrived to help — it was not initially clear how many of the other international aid offers the Moroccan government has accepted.

The UN said on Friday that it had offered assistance on search and rescue, humanitarian and medical needs, but an official said at the time that Morocco was "deploying its own answer to the earthquake."

The king's statement now provides a clearer picture of the aid that has entered the country, according to the Moroccan government.

5:01 p.m. ET, September 10, 2023

It's 10 p.m. in quake-struck Morocco. Here's the latest on the disaster recovery

A man enters his house destroyed by the earthquake in the city of Azizmiz on Sunday.
A man enters his house destroyed by the earthquake in the city of Azizmiz on Sunday. Ximena Borrazas/SOPA/LightRocket/Getty Images

Rescuers in Morocco struggled for a second day Sunday to locate survivors from the powerful earthquake that has killed more than 2,100 people and left remote villages near the epicenter in ruins.

The 6.8-magnitude quake struck late on Friday. It was the strongest to hit the region around the ancient city of Marrakech in a century, according to the US Geological Survey.

In an update Sunday afternoon, officials said the death toll had risen to at least 2,122 people, with 2,421 more injured — including many in critical condition. The toll is expected to rise further as rescuers dig through the rubble of collapsed houses in remote areas of the High Atlas mountains.

Here's where things stand:

  • A challenging search: Efforts to help those caught near the epicenter of Friday's powerful earthquake were ongoing Sunday, with members of the army, police and civil defense arriving overnight. Many villages in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains are isolated and difficult to access, hampering operations.
  • Firsthand accounts: A father of three who saw his family's village crumble; a man who narrowly escaped disaster and reunited with his cat; a family seeking shade on the soccer field where they spent the night: CNN spoke with villagers in the hardest hit areas and heard their stories.
  • Questions about international aid: Spain says Morocco has officially requested its aid, and a plane of 56 Spanish rescue personnel has since arrived to help. But it is not yet clear how many of the various other international aid offers the Moroccan government has accepted. The UN has offered assistance on search and rescue, and humanitarian or medical needs, but an official said Friday that Morocco is "deploying its own answer to the earthquake."
  • Funeral prayers held nationwide: Morocco’s King Mohamed VI ordered mosques across the country to hold funeral prayers, known as "Janazah" prayers, on Sunday for those killed in the earthquake. Flags were flown at half-mast in the country, the state news agency said. On Saturday, Moroccans flocked to hospitals and centers to donate blood as part of a nationwide call to help those injured in the deadly earthquake. 
  • US assistance: The US has made clear to the Moroccan government it is prepared to provide "significant assistance" following the devastating earthquake. "We've got search and rescue teams ready to deploy that can help not just with that activity, but with medical and other forms of assistance," US deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told reporters aboard Air Force One. 
  • Here's how to help victims of the earthquake in Morocco.
3:24 p.m. ET, September 10, 2023

In bustling Marrakech, the earthquake damaged centuries-old sites but spared the modern city

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in Marrakech

A small mosque at the heart of the Marrakech medina in the city’s historical quarter was a treasured place of prayer for the hundreds of traders working at the busy market outside.

Now, it’s off-limits.

The mosque, located in the corner of the famous Jemaa el-Fna square, had a beautiful tower which — once adorned with white triangle decoration — has almost entirely collapsed in the powerful earthquake that struck the area on Friday night.

The beautiful building is barely recognizable now. The ornate tower is almost entirely gone – just one bare stump of bricks sticking out of the rubble.

Outside the damaged mosque, local resident 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 told CNN. Like many others, she was too scared to go home.

The medina district, a UNESCO World Heritage site, dates back centuries and is enclosed by walls built of red sandstone. Once defending the city from danger, large parts of these walls have been damaged in the quake. Long sections are showing deep cracks and parts have crumbled.

Many of the old buildings inside the medina have been damaged and some have collapsed entirely. On Sunday morning, large piles of rubble were dotted around the area, with stray cats scouring them for food. Some sections of the city were cordoned off with fencing, as the old building could be at risk of collapse.

Away from the historical medina, in many of the modern parts of Marrakech, the impact was barely noticeable. Cafes and restaurants reopened Sunday morning, catering to tourists who decided to stay.

Meanwhile, the worst destruction has been in isolated areas of the nearby Atlas Mountains, where many communities are difficult to access. Residents have described whole villages suffering damage and rescuers unable to retrieve bodies from rubble.

Read the full story here.

1:19 p.m. ET, September 10, 2023

Father of 3 sees the village he grew up in crumble after Morocco quake

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in the Atlas Mountains

Ibrahim Goodman with his son.
Ibrahim Goodman with his son. Ivana Kottasová/CNN

Ibrahim Goodman has lived in his village near the Moroccan town of Asni his whole life. He grew up here and now has three children.

That village, his home, is now mostly rubble. At least 20 people died there in Friday's devastating earthquake, authorities say.

The first aid — some tents, and food and water — arrived in the village on Sunday, some 36 hours after the earthquake hit late on Friday night.

But at least they got something, Goodman told CNN. “For now, we are OK,” he said.

“There are villages further up where the help still can’t get to. The roads are blocked. They are clearing them now,” he said.

His 6-year-old son Mohamed has just started first grade. The first day of school was just two days before the disaster struck.

Goodman is not optimistic about when Mohamed might be able to get back to classes.

“It will depend on the government. There is no help now. I don’t know — it will take long time,” he said.

Most of the houses in the village are completely uninhabitable. Many have collapsed, and the ones that are still standing are dangerously unstable. Some of the buildings look like they have unfolded, with entire walls missing, exposing the remnants of the inside.

The villagers are staying away from the buildings, afraid they could crumble at any time. There is no water at the moment, as the pipes have been damaged.

“We are just waiting. There’s nothing else we can do,” Goodman said.
12:37 p.m. ET, September 10, 2023

4 French nationals killed in Morocco quake, foreign ministry says

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau in London 

Four French nationals have died and 15 were injured in the earthquake in Morocco, according to an updated toll provided to CNN by the French foreign ministry on Sunday.

"We deplore the death of three other French nationals near Marrakech, bringing the death toll at this stage to four French victims. Fifteen injured French nationals have been identified,” a ministry spokesperson said.

France officials said yesterday that one of the country's citizens had died in the city of Agadir as a result of the quake.

More than 830,000 Moroccans live in France, while more than 30,000 French live in Morocco, according to data from French authorities.

France is ready to help earthquake-hit Morocco whenever the authorities there “deem it useful,” President Emmanuel Macron said from the G20 in Delhi on Sunday.

12:13 p.m. ET, September 10, 2023

Morocco quake death toll rises to 2,122, state-run broadcaster says

From CNN’s Pierre Meilhan

Women mourn loved ones killed in the earthquake in Moulay Brahim, Morocco on September 10.
Women mourn loved ones killed in the earthquake in Moulay Brahim, Morocco on September 10. Fernando Sánchez/Europa Press/AP

At least 2,122 people have been killed in the earthquake that struck Morocco and 2,421 have been injured, state-run broadcaster 2M said Sunday.

Rescuers warn the toll is still expected to rise.

The 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck late on Friday. It was the strongest quake to hit the region around the ancient city of Marrakech in a century, according to the US Geological Survey.

12:21 p.m. ET, September 10, 2023

Italian volunteer says more help is urgently needed as his team begins work in Morocco

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová and Zeena Saifi in the Atlas Mountains

Volunteer Marco Abate.
Volunteer Marco Abate. Ivana Kottasová/CNN

Marco Abate is a volunteer with the Italian civil protection service. He arrived to Morocco late Saturday and headed straight into the Atlas Mountains, the areas worst impacted by the earthquake.

“We are volunteers. We are not officially sent by the Italian government, so we don’t have to wait for the Moroccan government to officially ask Italy for help,” he said.

Abate’s team of three volunteers is scouting locations, trying to establish which areas are most in need of help. He doesn’t hide his frustration with what he describes as a delay in international aid, which he believes comes down to the Moroccan government’s reluctance to ask for help.

“There’s nothing here. In Italy, when there is an earthquake, the next day there is a reception center with food and beverages and a field hospital. Many people here are sleeping on the street,” he told CNN.

He said his team is sending information about the needs back to Italy, where material is being prepared for shipment.

“I don’t know when it will arrive, but we hope it will be soon," Abate said. "First we need to set up a reception field with tents so people have somewhere to sleep.”

Some context: The US, France, Israel, Spain and several other countries and international organizations have offered to help in the earthquake response, but it is not yet clear how much international aid has reached the country.

A UN official said Saturday that the Moroccan government is "deploying its own answer to the earthquake."

The UN has offered assistance on search and rescue, and humanitarian or medical needs, but, "For now, we are on standby, ready to assist according to the modality the (Moroccan) government would like to choose," the UN coordinator in Morocco said in an interview published on Friday.

Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel Albares said earlier Sunday that Morocco had officially requested help from his country. A plane carrying 56 rescue personnel has since arrived in Morocco, the Spanish defense ministry said.

CNN’s Niamh Kennedy, Duarte Mendonca and Eve Brennan contributed reporting to this post.

12:22 p.m. ET, September 10, 2023

Man living in Atlas Mountains escapes destroyed home and reunites with kitten

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová in the Atlas Mountains

Badr lhwari with his kitten.
Badr lhwari with his kitten. Ivana Kottasová/CNN

Like many others in the Atlas Mountains region in Morrocco, Badr lhwari works in tourism.

This is a popular destination, and many people impacted by the earthquake are tourists and visitors.

Ihwari said the building he was living in was completely destroyed. He was able to escape but was injured — the falling debris caused deep cuts to his leg.

All he has now is one small bag with some clothes. The rest of his possessions have been lost and buried under rubble.

Everything, even my documents, all my stuff is lost," he told CNN.

Amid the destruction, there was a brief glimmer of hope. Romeo, Ihwari’s kitten, was found in the rubble.

Huddled in Ihwari’s arms, the cat was scared but unharmed, his blue eyes following his every move.