DISASTER: Scots couple escape earthquake in Morocco as death toll soars towards 2,000

Government says most damage occurred outside of cities and towns with many buildings reduced to rubble and dust

The death toll in a powerful earthquake around Marrakesh has risen to almost 2,000 people, with a further hundreds injured as authorities assess the damage, Moroccan government officials said.

Today, former Scotland football legend Alan Rough said he and his wife, Maggie Barry, escaped from their hotel onto the street with other residents and tourists after the mammoth quake.

The popular Scot thought his hotel room was about to split in half during the horror Moroccan earthquake which has killed more than 1000 people.

The ex-Scotland keeper and wife Maggie said they ran for their lives as the 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck at 11pm on Friday night.

Alan, 71, said he was overcome with shock at the complete devastation at their holiday resort four miles from Marrakesh city.

The ex-Scottish international was on holiday in the African country when the quake devastated towns and cities.

The popular TV presenter and pundit, said: “For 30 seconds I thought the room was going to split in two.

“There was a horrendous rumbling noise and then the whole room was shaking. It seemed like it would never stop.

“Loose items scattered everywhere around the room. It was mayhem. I really didn’t think the walls would stay standing.”

The former Patrick Thistle and Hibernian star goalkeeper escaped onto the street and joined other residents and tourists amid fears of an aftershock.

He said: “I ran outside and everyone else was out there too. They were stunned, nobody knew what was going on.  It’s a horrific feeling because there is nothing you can do, there is nothing you can control. And then it was over and we all looked at each other. I cannot believe the devastation.”

Last night the death toll in the country hit nearly 2,000 with more than 1,200 others believed to be injured.

The epicentre was high in the Atlas Mountains, 43 miles away from the capital city of Marrakesh, with tremors reaching people in remote villages.

Alan, who played in the 1978 and 1982 World Cups and wife Maggie, had arrived in Morocco last week for a 14-day holiday.

Maggie, a motoring journalist, said the couple also now fear for locals they had befriended during their stay in the capital city just days before.

The 69-year-old said: “It is a strange experience being in an earthquake because it takes a moment to understand what is happening. And the noise, that’s what you don’t expect.

“Then once you realise what’s happening, it’s so frightening and you just want to get out.

“I have idea how long it lasted. It just seemed to go on and on.

Much like other earthquakes, casualty figures appear to be rising as the extent becomes more clear in rural and hard-to-reach areas. The ministry wrote that most damage occurred outside of cities and towns.

Moroccans posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust, and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in historic Marrakesh, a Unesco World Heritage site, damaged.

Tourists and others posted videos of people screaming and evacuating restaurants in the city as throbbing club music played.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11.11pm local time, with shaking that lasted several seconds. Morocco’s National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale.

The tremor’s epicentre struck near the town of Ighil, roughly 70km south of Marrakesh.

According to Moroccan news site 2M, town loader Abderrahim Ait Daoud from Talat N’Yaaqoub, a town close to the quake’s epicentre, said several homes in the surrounding areas had partially or totally collapsed.

He added that authorities were working to clear roads in Al Haouz Province to allow passage for ambulances and aid to populations affected; however, he added that the large distances between mountain villages meant it would take time to learn the extent of the damage.

Other local media also reported roads near the quake’s epicentre were jammed with vehicles and blocked with collapsed rocks, slowing rescue efforts.

The USGS said the epicentre was 18km (11 miles) below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency put it at 8km (5 miles) down. In either case, such shallow quakes are more dangerous.

Rather than return to concrete buildings, men, women and children stayed out in the streets worried about aftershocks and other reverberations that could cause their homes to sway.

The US agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.

Though earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near Agadir and caused thousands of deaths in 1960.

National Institute of Geophysics’ head of seismic monitoring and warning, Lahcen Mhanni, told 2M TV that the earthquake was “exceptional”.

“Mountainous regions in general do not produce earthquakes of this size,” he said. “It is the strongest earthquake recorded in the region.”

Agencies in both Portugal and Algeria confirmed Friday’s quake was felt in both nations.

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