Morocco earthquake: This Australian survivor says it felt like ‘armageddon’

Key Points
  • The Australian government says it’s looking into whether any Australians have been impacted by the Morocco quake.
  • More than 2,000 people have been confirmed dead after the 6.8 magnitude earthquake.
  • Australian retiree Melinda Cowley was among the survivors.
Melinda Cowley had no idea what was happening as she was getting into bed in her home near the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Friday night.
The Australian retiree, who’s been living in a property 20 minutes from the city for the past eight years, was hosting a friend when the pair decided to call it a night.
That’s when the quake hit.
“I was just like, ‘Wow, what is happening?’” Cowley told SBS News.
“It was like, honestly, armageddon.”

Cowley and her friend ran outside the house in a panic. She said the tremor felt like it went on for over a minute, and then the power and WiFi cut out.

“It was quite severe,” Cowley said.
“We could hear sirens and all sorts of noise out on the road. It was just the most surreal thing I’ve ever lived through.”
Cowley said she did not fear for her life during the ordeal and only experienced minor property damage.
But the same couldn’t be said for her neighbours, especially those up in the mountains.
“There’s a lot of damage everywhere; a lot of destruction.

“There’s buildings down, there’s rubble everywhere.”

People sitting under small trees next to a road. Picture is taken from inside front of car

A picture supplied by Melinda Cowley of scenes outside her home in Morocco following the devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Friday night. Credit: Supplied

, according to Morocco’s government.

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the city of Marrakesh and its surrounding towns on Friday night, the deadliest earthquake for the country since 1960.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has declared three days of national mourning, and ordered shelter, food and other help for survivors.
But scores of people are displaced, with the fear of aftershocks prompting many to sleep outside, while also being desperately short of food and water.
Cowley said a girlfriend who survived the quake in the High Atlas mountain ranges, which was the epicentre of the quake, told her the villages there had been wiped out.

“She said the villages are just devastated. There is nothing; it’s gone.”

Four soldiers in uniform walk among rubble while carrying a body in a white tarpaulin

Moroccan army personnel recover the bodies of earthquake victims, in Tafeghaghte, Morocco, on Saturday. Source: EPA / Jalal Morchidi

Australian tourist Tri says she was on a tour in Marrakech when her group was forced to evacuate.

“We just went to bed and then we didn’t go to bed – because the room started shaking,” she said.
‘We were going back and forward and everything started moving and pictures started moving. And so we just grabbed some clothes and our bags, and we raced out.”

Tri said many people have been forced to sleep on the streets.

People sleeping outside at night in a large outdoor square

Hundreds of people sleep outside on Jemaa El Fna square in Marrakech, Morocco, on Sunday after a powerful earthquake hit the country. Source: EPA / Yoan Valat

“They felt it was safer to sleep outside than inside their homes. So at the moment we’re just really unclear about what to do next.”

In remote mountain areas, entire villages are reported to have been flattened.

Acting Australian Prime Minister Richard Marles said as yet, there doesn’t appear to be any Australians caught up in the quake.
“We do have an embassy in Rabat, and there are investigations now about whether or not Australians have been caught up in the earthquake,” he said.

“My latest advice is that it doesn’t appear that any have, but obviously it will be a situation which will be closely monitored as well.”

He said the federal government was reaching out to the Moroccan authorities to offer support.
“This is a part of the world that many Australians have visited, so I know that there will be an enormous amount of concern and sympathy for the Moroccan people.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it was not aware of any Australian casualties or hospitalisations at this time.
“The Australian Government extends its deepest sympathies to all those affected by the devastating earthquakes and aftershocks in Morocco,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
DFAT said Australians affected by the earthquake should continue to follow the directions of local authorities and urged those in need of assistance to contact the Consular Emergency Centre.
The Moroccan embassy in Canberra has been contacted for comment.

– with agencies, additional reporting by Ciara Hain.

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