Couple Survives Morocco’s Deadliest Earthquake in a Century as Death Toll Rises


As sunrise bathed the Moroccan city of Marrakech in a warm glow, Nathaniel Williams and his partner were in the midst of preparing for the next leg of their journey. All was peaceful until the earth beneath them tremored and started to vibrate without warning. The couple locked eyes, each mirroring the other’s terror-stricken expression. What they were haplessly caught under was the worst earthquake to strike the nation in more than a hundred years – a cataclysmic 6.8 magnitude shake that claimed over 2,100 lives; a death toll that continues to rise as rescuers doggedly attempt to extricate victims amidst the wreckage.

The locus of the quake was about 70 kilometers south of Marrakech, precariously located in the Atlas Mountains region, an area Williams and his companion had visited just the prior day. When the tremors reduced their Airbnb on the outskirts of the city to cacophonous chaos, they were packing their belongings, ready to depart for Spain, their current location.

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In an instant, as the room convulsed, darkness swallowed them whole. Light fixtures swung wildly while the building convulsed; attempting to brave the unsteady floor, Williams toppled as soon as he ventured beyond the doorway. Returning to the relative safety of the room, he sought solace in his partner’s arms, both harboring the chilling thought that these might be their final moments.

Williams recounted the incident as “terrifying”, the most brutal seismic activity lasting for 20 heart-stopping seconds that felt like an eternity. “It really was so scary. I have never experienced anything so frightful in my life,” he lamented.

The pair had spent the previous day enjoying the bucolic beauty of the Atlas Mountains region, where the earthquake happened to wreak havoc. The rural area, once brimming with quaint, picturesque villages tucked into the mountain landscape, now lie in ruins. Houses were either flattened by the quake’s force or crushed under the avalanche of mountain rocks. Rescue operations were hampered by the narrow, rubble-strewn roads now rendered nearly impassable.

Williams heart ached for the people they met and bonded with in the Atlas Mountains. “The region’s absolutely beautiful, and the locals are so warm, so hospitable,” he exclaimed, sharing fond memories of hearty meals and intriguing story exchanges. His thoughts and prayers are with them.

The lion’s share of the quake’s casualties came from the Al Haouz district in the High Atlas Mountains, with fatalities reaching up to 1,351 in that region alone. The broader region that bore the brunt of the quake has seen at least 2,421 injuries.

The damage was particularly severe in rural locations due to their proximity to the quake’s epicenter and the region’s buildings that weren’t designed to weather intense shaking.

Even in the city of Marrakech, many edifices have succumbed to severe damage. In response to the disaster, residents and tourists have formed lines to donate blood for the injured.

On Sunday, a 3.9 magnitude aftershock shivered out throughout the region, dealt by the U.S. Geological Survey. The full extent of its destructive potential is yet to be determined.

Isolated for rescue efforts due to remote and elevated locations or ruined roads, some regions balance on the brink due to a lack of water, food, and the sheer scope of destruction. Yet, Global Affairs Canada stated that, as of now, they have not received any information about Canadian citizens being injured or killed in the earthquake.

Despite the circumstances, humanity continues to extend its hands in aid. Several countries and organizations have reached out to offer assistance to Morocco. Meanwhile, the Moroccan communities in Canada are rallying together, fundraising to extend help to those impacted by the earthquake. Across the country, countless are stepping forward to lend their support. In the city of Windsor, Ontario, the Muslim community alone has raised $13,000 through the Windsor Islamic Association. In tough times, the human spirit endures, exemplified by the actions of those reaching out amidst calamity.