The noise comes first. A knocking and then just sound all around. The house starts to shake. I know immediately without even thinking. Earthquake.
I leap out of bed. The cats flee under it. All the safety lights in the compound go out. The walls of the house are flexing. It is like the square is trying to become a parallelogram.
I run for the door. It is locked. I manage to turn the key, and run out.
I want to be outside. Our yard is tilting and groaning. I can hear shouts and screams. One is my own. I am alone in the dark on the moving ground.
The trembling stops.
My neighbours start to come up and down and out We are about 25 people with the youngest being 2 and the oldest 100.
My house faces out onto the valley and the others are built into the mountain. They are solid and if they fall it would be catastrophic.
We cluster in the middle of the yard. I go back in to the house to find torches and a power bank and to put shoes on. I bring out shoes and shawls for anyone who needs them. My house is in the middle and the most accessible. But stupidly I don’t grab warm clothes for myself.
Everyone is crying and frightened. When we are all gathered we head down to the main road and the car park.
‘Safe arrival. Thanks be to God.’ Prayers of gratitude as we stumble down the steep slope.
Then it is a rush for signal as everyone checks in. We find the quake was in Asni and Marrakech too.
All the lower part of the village is now in the car park. Mules and cows have been brought over from the hamlet facing us.
We hope there are no casualties and no losses.
We are too scared to go back in case of after shocks. Dawn is 5 hours away. The signal dies.
The night is wearing on slowly. We are arranged in extended family groups in the car park. The men are standing on the opposite side and we women and children have colonised the low wall to sit on, or against.
Groups of men go and bring back water and blankets. A cow is lowing anxiously. Me, Aicha and Hasna are sharing a blanket.
The night becomes very cold. I’m only wearing a thin nightdress and a short sleeved jumper. I’m freezing. All the women and children are now in one big huddle for warmth. Someone sees my bare legs and immediately pulls a scrap of blanket over them.
Later three of us take refuge in my Toyota Yaris and I put a shopping bag over my head and another on my legs to keep warm. I doze.
It’s 6 o’clock and dawn is breaking. We move back up as a community.
There are huge cracks in the yard. Back in the house, the floor is littered with stuff that’s fallen off shelves.
The cats just want breakfast as normal. I need to warm up and try to sleep but will keep warm clothes, my shoes and head torch on. Just in case. So far, we’ve been lucky but news is coming in of deaths else where. Horrible. The road is closed. For now, we are here.
PS. Just cycled to get signal. It’s apocalyptic
Please donate here. These guys will get money to the right places https://www.gofundme.com/f/british-moroccan-society-earthquake-appeal
Here is my podcast on the earthquake and immediate aftermath. It was recorded on Sunday 10th September 2023