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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1:53 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

India's Modi inaugurates G20 summit by sending condolences to Morocco

From CNN's Rhea Mogul

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waits to welcome the leaders of the G20 countries at the Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on September 9.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waits to welcome the leaders of the G20 countries at the Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on September 9. Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday began his Group of 20 (G20) inauguration speech by offering his "heartfelt condolences to everyone affected" by Morocco's deadly earthquake.

"It is my wish that all the injured people recover quickly," Modi said.
"In this difficult time, my thoughts are with Morocco, and we are prepared to offer every possible assistance."

Modi is hosting several world leaders this weekend in India's capital New Delhi, where some of the world's most pressing economic and environmental issues are expected to be discussed.

Among those attending the summit are US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is not attending, with Beijing giving no reason for the surprise miss.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who cannot risk travel in case of arrest, will remain in Moscow, instead sending his foreign minister to represent the Kremlin.

1:18 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

European leaders send condolences over 'devastating' Morocco earthquake 

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris and Benjamin Brown in Marrakech 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have sent condolences to the people of Morocco from the sidelines of the G20 summit they are attending in India.

“This is terrible news from Morocco. In these difficult hours, our thoughts are with the victims of the devastating earthquake,” Scholz wrote Saturday on X, previously known as Twitter. 

Von der Leyen also expressed her sympathy. 

 “My heart goes out to the Moroccan people in the face of the terrible earthquake that took hundreds of lives last night,” von der Leyen wrote on X in French. 

She said her thoughts were with the families of the victims and those injured, wished them a speedy recovery, and praised rescuers for their "admirable job".

12:57 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

US Geological Survey raises death and damage assessments on Morocco quake

By CNN's Jonny Hallam

People look at debris in the aftermath of an earthquake in Marrakech, Morocco, on September 9.
People look at debris in the aftermath of an earthquake in Marrakech, Morocco, on September 9. Al Maghribi Al Youm/Handout via Reuters

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has upgraded its assessment on shake-related casualties from "possible" to "significant casualties are likely."

There was a 34% chance that between 100-1,000 people would have perished following Friday's powerful tremor, it said.

The US body also ramped up its assessment of economic losses. "Extensive damage is probable and the disaster is likely widespread," it said.

"Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking," USGS said.

While some resistant structures do exist, the most vulnerable buildings are adobe block and unreinforced brick with mud construction, it noted.

Some context: State television channels have reported that nearly 300 people have died from the quake.

12:33 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Morocco urges people to donate blood following deadly earthquake

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

Morocco's Blood Transfusion and Hematology Center is calling on people to donate blood to help victims in need following Friday's earthquake, the country's state-run TV said on Saturday.

The center said the number and type of injuries meant the blood bags were needed as soon as possible.

12:51 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

'It kicked in a couple minutes later, screaming began': CNN researcher describes scenes on the ground

From CNN's Chris Lau

Residents stay out at a square following an earthquake in Marrakesh, Morocco, on September 9.
Residents stay out at a square following an earthquake in Marrakesh, Morocco, on September 9. Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

CNN staff member Benjamin Brown, who was in Marrakech when the quake took place, said it took a while for people in the vicinity to register what was happening.

He said he and some others had left their hotel after feeling the tremors and headed for open land. At first, he said, most people – including some still in their pajamas – seemed calm.

“And then it kicked in a couple minutes later, screaming began,” he recalled.

Panic sank in when people began noticing their injuries, said Brown, who spoke by phone to CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes.

“Some of them appeared to have quite serious head injuries with a lot of blood, actually so bad to an extent where at least in one instance an ambulance had to turn away an injured woman because they were at full capacity,” he said.

Many people had subsequently decided to camp out for the night, Brown said.

“Absolutely shocking scene for Marrakech,” he added.

There were many partially destroyed buildings, some with their roofs coming off and glass windows shattered, Brown said, and parts of the historic walls of Marrakesh were crumbling.

12:07 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Rescue teams struggling to reach the most affected areas

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

Rescue teams in Morocco are having difficulties reaching the areas most affected by Friday night's earthquake because nearby roads are damaged and blocked, state-run Al Aoula TV has reported.

The 6.8-magnitude quake struck shortly after 11 p.m. local time at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.4 miles), according to the US Geological Survey.

The epicenter was in the High Atlas mountains located about 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of Marrakech, a city of some 840,000 people and a popular tourist destination.

12:14 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Here is why Marrakech is so popular with tourists

CNN's Nectar Gan

Jemaa el-Fnaa, a square and market place, in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Jemaa el-Fnaa, a square and market place, in Marrakesh, Morocco. Getty Images

The walls of Marrakesh at sunset.
The walls of Marrakesh at sunset. Getty Images

 Koutoubia Minaret and mosque at dusk in Marrakesh, Morocco.
 Koutoubia Minaret and mosque at dusk in Marrakesh, Morocco. Getty Images

A former imperial city with nearly a thousand years of history, Marrakech is tightly packed with medieval-era palaces, mosques, gardens and bustling markets.

Its old city center is surrounded by red earth walls and filled with buildings constructed in red sandstone, which gave the city its nickname the “red city.”

Those walls were first laid out in the early 12th century.

Before the Covid pandemic, the old city drew nearly three million tourists in 2019.

Some context: Some of the ramparts were damaged in the quake, Al Aoula TV reported.

In addition to its rich culture and history, Marrakech is also Morocco’s fourth largest city and a major economic center.

12:57 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

India ready to offer assistance, Modi says

From CNN's Manveena Suri and Akanksha Sharma

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his condolences over the loss of lives due to the earthquake in Morocco.

“Extremely pained by the loss of lives due to an earthquake in Morocco”, Modi said on Saturday local time via his official account on X, formerly known as Twitter, as he sent "condolences to those who have lost their loved ones."

He said his thoughts were with the people of Morocco in this tragic hour.

“May the injured recover at the earliest," Modi said, adding that India is ready to offer assistance to Morocco.
11:37 p.m. ET, September 8, 2023

Earthquake damages historic walls of Marrakech

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

The earthquake has damaged parts of Marrakech's historic walls, according to the country's state-run Al Aoula TV.

The walls are a set of defensive ramparts that enclose the historic medina districts of Marrakech and were first laid out in the early 12th century.