Near midnight Friday, Morocco was rocked by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake, the strongest to hit the area in more than a century. As of Monday afternoon, the death toll from the natural disaster was more than 2,600 people, according to the country’s Interior Ministry.
The quake struck about 47 miles southwest of Marrakesh. The areas most affected were the villages in the High Atlas Mountains, where homes and lives were destroyed, but the earthquake was felt in Rabat, Fez and as far away as Casablanca, more than 180 miles from its epicenter.
Akim Elanbassi, the owner of Morocco Travel Agency, was staying at a boutique hotel in the Ourika Valley as part of a location scouting trip for his family’s business. He said he felt the entire building shake. Within minutes, the entire Berber village of Anrar was outside as people fled the explosion-like noises coming from their walls.
Elanbassi and his family — his wife, two children and mother-in-law — decided to flee the mountains and drive the 38 kilometers to Marrakesh, where they would sleep in the car.
“It was really loud … terrifying. Very terrifying. It’s like in the movies but it’s real, real stuff,” Elanbassi said. “It was crazy. But we were very lucky because maybe the area we were at did not get hit as hard as other areas.”