An Australian woman who was on holiday in Morocco during the most powerful earthquake on record has relived the terrifying moment she thought she was going to die.
Vanessa, 33, was ten days into her three-week trip with tour group Intrepid Travel, when the group of seven visited Ait Ben Haddou – a UNESCO heritage site at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, southwest of Marrakech, Friday.
It was around 11 p.m. – Vanessa was reading in bed in her pajamas while her roommate chatted on the phone on the balcony – when the air conditioner on the wall started to roar.
“Then it sounded like a roar of thunder coming from the ground, rumbling and the whole building started shaking,” she told Daily Mail Australia.
“The hotel was made of traditional hay and mud, and the ceiling was made of reeds and they all started to fall, the pendant lights were swinging very violently and I realized it was an earthquake.”
Vanessa, a graphic designer from Sydney, later discovered she was staying about 30 minutes from where the 6.8 magnitude quake struck. The death toll reached around 2,800 on Tuesday, but that number is expected to rise.
Vanessa (pictured) left for a trip to Morocco around ten days before a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck.
She was living in Ait Ben Haddou (photo before the disaster), at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, on Friday when the earthquake struck.
Pictured: A building in Ait Ben Haddou that was severely damaged in the earthquake
To make matters worse, links on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website were broken, so she couldn’t declare herself safe. “I tried to Google different things, but you could only tell them if you were in Ukraine,” she said. added.
Moments after the earthquake began, the power went out and Vanessa had to grope around the room to reach a doorway, while the floor shook and pieces of the ceiling fell on her head.
“I kept trying to turn on the flashlight on my phone, but I was shaking and kept turning on my debit card instead,” she recalled.
“I was standing against the door frame and it wouldn’t stop and I thought if this goes on for another ten minutes I could die here – the building is going to collapse.”
She opened the door and saw two young American girls standing in the hallway, panicking and asking what was happening.
“I said, ‘Earthquake!’ We need to get out of the building, but stay at the door,” and then a guy came running and yelled, “Run! Everyone, get out! “and that was enough for me,” she said.
Where the earthquake struck: This map reveals the epicenter of Morocco’s deadly earthquake, which killed more than 2,500 people and injured thousands more when it struck last Friday.
Pictured: Cracks in the walls and missing plaster at the hotel where Vanessa was staying
The hotel’s ceiling was made of reeds, which all crashed to the ground during the earthquake (photo)
Once outside, hotel staff told them to run to the other side of the road, where no structures could fall and hurt them.
Vanessa, who was still in her pajamas and without shoes, felt like she was on a boat.
“I could still feel everything moving, but I didn’t want to say anything and freak everyone out, but it turned out the ground was still moving – the aftershock was a magnitude 3.5 earthquake,” he said. -she declared.
The hotel staff ran inside to collect chairs from the restaurant and, to Vanessa’s surprise, served mint tea to everyone on the side of the road.
At one point, they met a woman who was hysterical because she lived a few miles away, in a house that had been hit hard by the earthquake and people had died.
Their bus driver lived with his family about 3 km away, but he could not reach them because the roads were blocked.
They also couldn’t get inside the hotel because the building was unstable, so around 2:30 a.m. the group piled into a minivan to try to sleep.
Vanessa (pictured), a graphic designer from Sydney, found she was staying about 30 minutes from where the 6.8 magnitude quake struck.
In the photo: Men searching a destroyed building on Monday in Douzrou
“I couldn’t sleep, so I would stay up reading, but I thought everyone was moving and shaking the van, but no, it was the aftershocks,” she said.
“The van was rocking all night. »
The group was scheduled to travel to the High Atlas Mountains, the heart of the disaster, in the coming days to hike and stay with a local family, but this proved impossible after the earthquake.
Instead, the guide led the group to the coast where the landscape was flat and the towns were largely untouched for the remaining few days of their trip.
However, they will have to leave the capital, Marrakech.
The population suffered extensive damage, with many forced to sleep on the streets due to the complete destruction or severe structural damage of their homes.
“I can’t wait to go to Marrakech because there’s a lot of damage there and it’s weird to be on vacation with people who are now homeless,” she said.
Even though she had a brush with death, Vanessa said she doesn’t regret booking the trip.
“I don’t want to be in an earthquake again, but you can’t control these things,” she said.
She said Intrepid Travel guides were extremely helpful and worked around the clock to book emergency accommodation, provide free meals and keep the group safe.
The body of a 30-year-old man is removed from the rubble on Monday in Douzrou, Morocco.
EARTHQUAKE IN MOROCCO
Morocco’s most powerful earthquake ever recorded struck Friday evening and claimed more than 2,800 lives and injured around 2,000 others.
There is a race against time to save the remaining survivors under the rubble of razed mountain villages.
Around 300,000 people were affected by the earthquake, according to UN estimates, and many were left homeless or fearing further aftershocks, forced to sleep on the streets of Marrakech.
Historic buildings in Marrakech have been severely damaged and many have been forced onto the streets. The most affected areas are rural villages in central Morocco.
Aid workers face the challenge of reaching the worst-hit villages in the High Atlas, a rugged mountain range where settlements are often isolated and many homes have collapsed.
Traditional dwellings made of mudbrick, stone and raw wood, typical of the mountain villages of the High Atlas, have reduced the chances of finding survivors.
Geologists said the magnitude 6.8 temblor was the largest earthquake to hit the country’s heartland in more than 120 years and the deadliest in six decades.