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A newly-wed couple who recently left the UAE were lucky to escape the deadly earthquake that hit Morocco, the groom's mother has said.
Umm Mahmoud, a Jordanian living in the emirates, said her son had recently married a Moroccan and the couple had moved there from the UAE six months ago.
“They were inside a four-storey building when the earthquake struck. He swiftly guided his wife to the ground floor and they managed to escape. It was a moment of sheer terror,” she said.
The earthquake of magnitude 6.8 hit Morocco's High Atlas mountains at 23.11pm on Friday (2.11am Saturday, UAE time), killing at least 2000 people.
More than 150 wounded were receiving medical attention at hospitals, the country’s Interior Ministry said.
Umm Mahmoud tried to contact her son in Marrakesh by phone. After repeated attempts, he finally answered.
“He described how the ground shook violently beneath them, feeling as though his life was hanging by a thread,” she said.
Mahmoud and his wife spent the night on the streets, in fear of aftershocks.
“As of now, they're safe, but they have yet to return to their apartment. He said older buildings had collapsed, and people were gathered in the streets. I'm anxious for him, hoping the tremors will subside,” she said.
Like her, many Moroccans in the UAE were trying to check on family members after the earthquake.
The majority of casualties were reported in Marrakesh and surrounding areas, where the tremors caused buildings to collapse. Residents were forced to flee their homes in various cities.
Dubai resident Moufdi Karim, 47, told The National he had not slept as he worried about the safety his family in Casablanca.
“I received the news at about 3am. After numerous attempts, my family finally answered and assured me they were safe,” he said.
“They were asleep when the earthquake struck and quickly sought refuge in open spaces, leaving their home for safety.”
Mr Karim said his mother and brother spent the night outdoors, too afraid to return to their apartment.
“They feared further tremors would occur and joined others on the streets. There are visible cracks in the walls of the building,” he said.
“I have been sitting in front of the TV, glued to the news, while constantly calling my family, relatives, and friends. It's a tragedy of immense proportions.”
Mukhtar Ahmed, 40, a Moroccan living in Sharjah, said he was concerned about his family living in Fes, in the north-eastern region of the country.
“My parents and brothers are in Fes. They told me that it was an incredibly powerful earthquake. Like many others, my family left their homes due to concerns of further tremors,” he told The National.
“It's heart-wrenching to witness the images and hear the stories from Morocco.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with our fellow Moroccans who are grappling with this earthquake.”
He was reassured that his family and relatives were safe, but he remained glued to his phone for updates about friends in other Moroccan cities.
“Though we may be far from home, our hearts remain there,” he said.
Another Moroccan living in the UAE said it was hard to process the devastation the earthquake had caused.
"Entire villages have been wiped out - [there have been] so many deaths. We are still unable to process it all. The images look unreal,” said Abu Dhabi resident Hind Takzima.
Mrs Takzima is from Safi - over an hour away from Marrakesh where the the earthquake hit.
Her family in Morocco were unaffected but felt the tremors.
“The building where my brother and mother were at was literally swaying from one side to the other and a few minutes later the electricity went off," she said.
In the darkness her family scrambled outside where they remained until 5am in fear of another earthquake.
“Thankfully our area is fairly new and our houses are built of strong materials," she said.
"It is the villages where houses were built out of clay and on sloping mountains that have been wiped out - even the roads have collapsed making it difficult to reach them."