Morocco earthquake: Is it safe to travel to Marrakech?
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Morocco earthquake: Is it safe to travel to Marrakech?

Morocco earthquake: Is it safe to travel to Marrakech?

In the aftermath of the earthquake, while Marrakech airport continues to function normally, it has seen long queues of tourists wanting to fly out of the city

Marisha Singh

The September 8 earthquake that struck Morocco has claimed more than 2,800 lives and injured thousands.

Search and rescue teams are continuing their hunt for survivors however, as days pass by the possibility of saving lives becomes increasingly unlikely.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by the terrain as the epicentre of the quake was located in the High Atlas mountain region. Marrakech, one of Morocco’s biggest cities is located just 70 kilometres from Ighil, the town that suffered the full brunt of the calamity.

The historic city, which is the country’s most popular tourist destination has suffered extensive damage to its centuries-old buildings, and infrastructure. Most of the damage occurred in the medina – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest part of Marrakech.

According to initial reports, tourists are among those killed in the earthquake, with France confirming the death of its nationals.

Additionally, the area has been wracked by aftershocks from the earthquake which was located at a depth of just 18 kilometres from the surface. At least 25 aftershocks have hit the region since the Friday earthquake, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

More seismic activity will continue, according to the US Geological Survey, “It’s likely that smaller aftershocks in the region … will continue to be felt for weeks to come. In some cases, there may be strong aftershocks.”

With thousands of people booked to visit the country this autumn, is it safe to travel to Morocco?

According to reports in the British media, an estimated 5,000-8,000 UK holidaymakers are currently in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. Thousands were expected to fly into the country during the autumn months as trekking in the Atlas mountains is a popular activity.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, while Marrakech airport continues to function normally, it has seen long queues of tourists wanting to fly out of the city.

Reports suggest that while Marrakech has been badly affected, while other cities such as Agadir and Essaouira, are believed to have escaped unscathed. Casablanca, Tangier and the capital city Rabat in the north of the country also escaped any significant damage from the earthquake.

However, countries such as the US, and UK have advice for those in or travelling to the calamity-hit country.

The US Embassy in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, said, “Local hospitals and resources in the most affected areas may become strained. Hospitals in Marrakech and major cities are currently open but have limited capacity.

“Avoid affected areas and follow police instructions regarding road closures or traffic disruptions. Airports and local transportation are open and functioning.”

The US Embassy also says, “Airports and local transportation are open and functioning. Please contact airlines directly regarding possible delays or rescheduling. US citizens who wish to depart should continue to use local transportation options.

We are monitoring the recent earthquake response in Morocco closely and are in touch with local authorities. Please exercise caution in case of aftershocks. U.S. citizens in Morocco in need of emergency assistance may contact the U.S. Embassy by phone at 05-37-63-72-00 (dialing from Morocco) or +212-537-63-72-00 (dialing from outside Morocco), or email: [email protected].”

Similarly, the updated UK Foreign Office advisory says: “All Moroccan airports are open and flights to and from the UK are operating normally, with some airlines laying on additional seats for travellers wishing to return to the UK earlier than planned. “Travellers wishing to change their flight plans should liaise direct with their tour operators or airline companies.

“If you are planning to travel to Morocco imminently we advise you check with your accommodation provider/tour operator to confirm arrangements before departure in case of disruption or damage resulting from the earthquake.

“Should you require consular assistance please call the British Embassy in Rabat on +212 537 63 33 33 and select the menu option for consular services, or call the Foreign Office on +44 207 008 5000.”

What is the status of airlines operating to and from Marrakech?

These are the positions of the major airlines:

British Airways announced that it is allowing flexible flight change options to passengers booked to Marrakech in the next two weeks. An airline spokesperson said, “The welfare of our customers is our priority, and we have contacted our British Airways Holidays customers in Morocco to check that they’re safe. We are continuing to monitor the situation closely, and customers due to travel to or from Marrakech in the next two weeks can change their dates free of charge if they wish.”

Ryanair’s spokesperson said, “There may be some potential delays and cancellations to/from Morocco today due to the earthquake. “Affected passengers will be notified and passengers travelling to/from Morocco today should check their Ryanair app for flight updates before travelling to the airport.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our passengers and offer our deepest sympathies to those affected.”

Air France has also offered customers with flights planned to or from Morocco in “the coming days” the chance to modify or postpone their flights for free. The airline’s services to and from Marrakech, Casablanca and Rabat are all operating normally.

Meanwhile, Air Canada is the only North American airline that offers nonstop service to Morocco, and Royal Air Maroc serves only four destinations in the US, and Canada.

The Canadian flag carrier announced, “Because of the earthquake in Morocco, we understand that you may want to make alternate travel arrangements. If you currently have a reservation, Air Canada has implemented a policy that makes it possible for you to make voluntary changes to your itinerary if you purchased an Air Canada ticket no later than September 9, 2023, for travel between now and September 23, 2023. or your itinerary includes a flight to, from or via Casablanca (CMN).

The airline adds, “If you are scheduled to travel during the affected period, you can retrieve your booking to change your flight, free of charge, to another date between now and October 8, 2023, subject to availability in the cabin you originally purchased. Otherwise, any fare difference will apply.”

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