The Moroccan city of Essaouira shakes with the earthquake: "We have never felt anything like this" | International
In the Moroccan city of Essaouira the ground shakes. Furniture is moved and glass is broken. The seagulls fly in circles, squawking nervously. People scream in panic. Shortly after 11:00 p.m. on Friday (one hour more in mainland Spain), a 6.8 magnitude earthquake shook Morocco, causing more than 1,000 deaths and 1,200 injuries, according to the latest figures from the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior. In this coastal municipality, 150 kilometers from the epicenter, the earthquake was felt intensely for several minutes and spread terror. The neighbors had to leave their houses for fear that their walls and ceilings would collapse, but in the end there were no damages or deaths.
Essaouira is located 190 kilometers from Marrakech, which is among the provinces and cities - along with Al Haouz, Taroudant, Chichaua and Ouarzazat - most affected by the earthquake, with buildings that have collapsed. After the earthquake, the town squares were filled with residents of the medina (old city) who wanted to be safe from possible aftershocks. “We have never felt anything like this. We are restless because we are not used to it, we don't know what to do,” shared Adil, who runs a riad (traditional Moroccan palace transformed into a guest house) in the medina. “Whatever has to be, will be”, he would say, with that calmness and faith characteristic of Moroccans.
Around them, women and men consoled their children, who were crying in fear, and remembered their relatives and friends close to the epicenter, which has been located in Iguil, 63 kilometers southwest of Marrakech and at a depth of about 18, 5 kilometers. Almost all the people who were sheltering in the square—locals and foreigners—were talking on the phone, searching for information. “Now I am a little calmer, but I have had a really bad time”, commented Fatima, a practically blind woman, who could not see what was happening around her. Between her son Nadil, eight years old, and her daughter Aisha, 13, they explained everything to her. After about two hours away from home, the neighbors gradually returned to their homes. “I think we are safe now,” said Adil, the owner of the riad, before inviting his guests to return to the rooms. “Let it be what God wants.”
The next morning, Essaouira breathes easy. Businesses open their doors, restaurants serve mint teas and msemens (Moroccan crepes), street vendors call to tourists, who calmly stroll through the narrow, colorful streets of the medina. In the port, fishermen display their fish and, on the beach, people bathe, sunbathe and surf. In the background, the call to prayer from a mosque. In this coastal city it seems like any other day. “Today we were going to Marrakech, but in the end we stayed here. They told us from the hotel there that we better go tomorrow, because they have to fix some walls”, explain Hyke and Regina, two German travelers looking for shade under a scorching sun.
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A street sweeper greets everyone he meets, asks how they are, and wishes them luck. “I was scared, but thank God everything is fine. Thank God we're not in Marrakesh, ”he comments, while cleaning up the garbage left by the neighbors when they waited to return to their homes. Ahmed Mhamid, a young Berber who comes from the desert to sell his products, slept on the beach. "If something fell on me, it could only be water," he jokes, and he admits, laughing, that he was "very scared" when he felt the tremor.
The vast majority of those registered affected are concentrated in the province of Al Hauz, the rural area closest to the epicenter. "We're ok. Now all that remains is to help in the rescue tasks,” says a relieved carpet seller in the medina of Essaouira, and remembers the earthquake that devastated Agadir, 175 kilometers away, in 1961. It left between 12,000 and 15,000 fatalities (about a third of the city's population at the time), 12,000 injured and at least 35,000 homeless.
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