Croydon couple tell of calm response to Morocco earthquake

Devastation: rescue workers search desperately to find survivivors in the rubble left by the earthquake in Morocco

A Croydon couple has spoken to Inside Croydon exclusively about how their dream holiday to Morocco almost turned into a deadly nightmare, as a massive earthquake struck their Marrakesh hotel.

Mark and Janine Hughes had been in their hotel room in Marrakesh for just 10 minutes when the earthquake struck on Friday night.

Around 3,000 people are feared dead in a disaster that devastated villages in the high Atlas Mountains.

The earthquake measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, with aftershocks continuing over the days since. A massive international rescue effort is underway, but the remoteness of the mountain area worst affected and the severity of the damage is hampering the efforts of aid workers.

In for a shock: Janine and Mark Hughes on arrival at their hotel in Marrakesh

“The whole building was shaking and plaster started falling from the ceiling,” Mark Hughes told iC.

“That was when we realised we had a problem.”

Mark, a BT operational manager, and Janine, a receptionist at Croydon University Hospital, left home on Friday and flew to Morocco from Gatwick. They reached the Rui Tikida Palmeira Hotel in Marrakesh at 9.30pm and had a meal in the restaurant.

At 11pm they went to their first-floor bedroom and were still unpacking when the shock started. “It lasted a good two minutes, “ Mark says.

“At first it was hard to understand what was going on.”

When they realised it was an earthquake, they knew they had to leave the hotel.

“In all honesty I wasn’t overly worried, but at that point I didn’t realise the extent of the situation. When we congregated outside, it was clear that a lot of other tourists were in a complete state of shock and some were in panic.”

Crumbling: plaster and concrete fell from some of the hotel walls

They eventually returned to their room around midnight. “The hotel is still habitable and the staff have done an amazing job steadying ship. Cleaners cleared up the rubble very early so by the time we came down there was very little to see.”

Over breakfast, says Mark, “everyone’s phones were lit up with messages from friends and family”. Some came from members of Croydon Male Voice Choir, where Mark is a baritone and part of the choir’s acclaimed Sandilands Shanty Crew. “It was pretty scary,” he told them. “But all ok, thanks.”

The epicentre of the quake is around 40 miles from Marrakesh.

Mark and Janine have not left the hotel as Morocco is in a three-day spell of state mourning. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has decreed that there shall be no music or dancing in that period, which the hotel is faithfully observing.

“I have never experienced anything like the shaking, and hope never to do so again,” Mark Hughes said.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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