September 9, 2023 Earthquake hits Morocco

By Chris Lau, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Andrew Raine, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 0408 GMT (1208 HKT) September 10, 2023
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11:50 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Quake survivors need food, shelter and mental health assistance, disaster aid director says

The death toll from the Morocco earthquake will likely rise, and aftershocks could cause further physical and mental pain, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' Caroline Holt said Saturday.

"Not only (do aftershocks) have the potential to create further injuries to people — and broken bones and severe head injuries, etc. — but really, it creates a sense of fear amongst the population that has survived the initial trauma," said Holt, director for disaster, climate and crises at the IFRC. 

Holt told CNN it is heartening to see international solidarity at this time, and that needs to continue.

"We know that there will be a requirement of shelter, in form of tents, no doubt, in the early phases. Food and safe and clean water will also be critical to make sure that we don't see a disaster within a disaster," she said.

"People will be living outside for the foreseeable future," Holt said. In the mountainous area near the epicenter, she said it is very hot during the day, but temperatures can plunge at night, so basic shelter is required immediately to protect people from the elements.

"First aid and psychosocial support, to help with the mental health needs of people who are suffering and continue to suffer the trauma, will also be prioritized, and I can only imagine that we will see the international aid effort really start to scale up in the coming days," she added.

The Moroccan Red Crescent is working with national and local organizations on the ground to assess the biggest needs, Holt said.

"I think it is important to recognize that it's roads, transportation, it's health care, it's communication, everything is impacted by a disaster of this nature — specifically by an earthquake. So everything is complicated and it is a very complex response that will be required," she said.

11:18 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Earthquake appears to have damaged 12th-century Tinmal Mosque

From CNN's Martin Goillandeau

The Tinmal Mosque is seen damaged on September 9.
The Tinmal Mosque is seen damaged on September 9. Shared with CNN

Images show the extent of the damage left by the Morocco earthquake on the Tinmal Mosque in the High Atlas mountains, a prime example of Almohad architecture.

The 12th-century mosque served as a model for the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech and the Giralda mosque in Seville, a former Moroccan culture minister told CNN. 

The Tinmal Mosque on September 9.
The Tinmal Mosque on September 9. Shared with CNN

10:39 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Morocco vs. Liberia Africa Cup Of Nations qualifying match postponed due to earthquake

From CNN's Wayne Sterling

The Morocco vs. Liberia Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match scheduled for Saturday evening has been postponed because of the powerful earthquake that hit Morocco, the Moroccan Football Federation said in a statement.

"Following this great tragedy, the national football family extends its deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and wishes a speedy recovery to all those injured," according to the statement.

Morocco and Liberia were set to play in the final round of qualifiers for the finals of the African Cup of Nations at Stade d'Agadir in Agadir, Morocco. No makeup date was announced.

Morocco's magical run in the 2022 FIFA World Cup broke records and inspired praise across the world.

10:09 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Morocco earthquake death toll surpasses 1,000

From CNN’s Celine Alkhaldi in Abu Dhabi

People mourn in front of the bodies of earthquake victims in Moulay Brahim, Morocco on September 9.
People mourn in front of the bodies of earthquake victims in Moulay Brahim, Morocco on September 9. Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

The death toll for the Morocco earthquake has risen to 1,037, and more than 1,000 other people have been injured, according to Morocco’s state TV channel Al Aoula, which cited the interior ministry.  

The ministry said 721 people are in critical condition.

It is the deadliest earthquake to hit Morocco in decades.

10:01 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Algeria reopens airspace to and from Morocco for humanitarian aid and medical flights

From CNN’s Celine Alkhaldi and Eve Brennan  

Algeria will open its airspace for humanitarian aid and medical flights going to and from Morocco, despite the countries' strained relations, Algerian state news agency APS reported, citing a statement from the country’s president.

“Algeria expressed today, Saturday, its full readiness to provide humanitarian aid to Morocco and put all the material and human capabilities in the wake of the violent earthquake that struck this country, according to a statement by the Presidency of the Republic,” APS reported. 

“The authorities also decided Upper Algeria opened its airspace to flights to transport humanitarian aid and the wounded and injured,” it said.  

Key context: Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco in 2021 and closed its airspace to all planes registered in Morocco.  

11:28 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Head coach of Gambian soccer team describes moment earthquake hit

From CNN’s Celine Alkhaldi and Teele Rebane

Tom Saintfiet, head coach of the Gambian national football team, speaks at a press conference in 2022.
Tom Saintfiet, head coach of the Gambian national football team, speaks at a press conference in 2022. Issouf Sang/AFP/Getty Images

Tom Saintfiet, head coach of the Gambian national football team, spoke to CNN about being in Marrakech with his team for an upcoming Africa Cup qualifier match against Congo when the earthquake hit. 

“First, I thought someone was knocking on my door, then I thought a plane crashed, because our hotel is very close to the airport. But then it got scary. Really scary. The walls were shaking, and things were falling from the ceiling,” Saintfiet told CNN. 

He gathered the members of his team, and they spent the night outside by the hotel pool. The coach says many of his players were in shock and had trouble sleeping. 

“Some of the players had actually experienced the earthquake in Turkey not too long ago and so having to go through this was a very traumatic moment for them,” he said, referencing the devastating quake from February that killed tens of thousands of people.

The team's match against Congo is scheduled for Sunday, though it’s unclear whether it will go ahead. “We don’t know if that game is going to happen still, due to the casualties, but there is a very good chance it will, and so it is a strange moment. A strange situation. We try to cope with it, we try to keep the atmosphere high," he added.

8:52 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Turkey prepared to send personnel and tents to Morocco, emergency authority says

From CNN's Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul and Jessie Gretener in London

Turkey says it is ready to send 265 personnel and 1,000 tents to Morocco to support aid efforts following the deadly earthquake, according to AFAD, Turkey’s Emergency Management Authority. 

In a statement, AFAD said it is responding to calls for international aid from Morocco. “A total of 265 personnel from AFAD, Ministry of Health’s National Rescue Team UMKE, Turkish Red Crescent and other NGOs are ready to take action,” it said.

AFAD also outlined that it is also able to send 1,000 tents to the region to assist people affected by the earthquake. 

“We offer our condolences to the people of Morocco who were affected by the earthquake,” the agency said, according to the statement.

In February, a devastating earthquake hit Turkey, killing at least 45,000 people, rendering millions homeless across almost a dozen cities, and causing immediate damage estimated at $34 billion

10:30 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

It's early afternoon in Morocco. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

A resident navigates through the rubble in Marrakech, Morocco, on Saturday, September 9. 
A resident navigates through the rubble in Marrakech, Morocco, on Saturday, September 9.  Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

If you are just joining us, hundreds of people have been killed after a powerful earthquake struck central Morocco.

The bulk of the deaths were in the province of Al Haouz, west of the quake's epicenter and south of Marrakech, a bustling economic and cultural center that's popular with tourists.

Here are the latest developments:

When and where: The quake struck shortly after 11 p.m. local time (6 p.m. ET), according to the US Geological Survey. Its epicenter was in the High Atlas mountains, about 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of the Marrakech, home to around 840,000 people. Many people in the areas affected live in structures "highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking," the USGS noted.

Rising death toll: While more than 800 people have died, the figure is likely to rise. One expert said he expects multiple aftershocks and predicted the magnitude of these aftershocks to be in the "high fives."

Damage is complicating rescues: Rescue teams in the country were having difficulties reaching the hardest-hit areas, with nearby roads damaged or blocked. Some Marrakech residents spent the night sleeping in the streets. Traffic has been reported in some streets in the city amid a rush to pick up patients, as well as tourists fleeing the destruction.

Eyewitnesses describe devastation: People living in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, very close to the epicenter of the quake, have described the ruins left behind by the disaster. One eyewitness said her village is in a "very bad condition. There is destruction everywhere."

Huge international response: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the G20 summit on Saturday with "heartfelt condolences" to everyone affected by the quake. The United Nations has said it is ready to help, and other countries including Israel, the UAE, the US and France have said they are working to provide assistance to Morocco.

12:58 p.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Morocco earthquake affected 300,000 people in Marrakech and surrounding areas, WHO says

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem

The World Health Organization said the earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday night affected 300,000 people in the major city of Marrakech and surrounding areas. 

The WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean shared "sincere condolences and support" to the people of Morocco in a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, Saturday, noting the 300,000 figure.

Marrakech is a cultural and economic hub popular with tourists. It is populated with some 840,000 people and located about 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) northeast of the High Atlas mountains, the area of the epicenter of the quake.

Even closer to the epicenter was the province of Al Haouz, which accounts for 394 out of the 820 people that have been confirmed dead so far, according to the country's interior ministry.