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‘It was crazy and chaotic’

The group as they are greeted in Tarifa by relatives. They managed to take a ferry after a seven-hour drive from Marrakesh to Tangier.

A Gibraltar resident caught up in the Morocco earthquake described moments of chaos as violent tremors hit the city of Marrakesh on Friday night.

GHA nurse Ferran Cañadillas Castells was in Marrakesh on a weekend break with his partner, fellow nurse Zhané Vassallo, and two friends, another GHA nurse, Hannah Alba, and Jasmeen Kaur.

They were in a room in the Riad Niza near the main square in Marrakesh when the earthquake struck.

“It was crazy and chaotic,” he told the Chronicle.

“It literally felt as if a metro was passing by underneath us.”

“People were running in panic and then it clicked and they began shouting ‘earthquake’.”

Their first instinct was to leave the building but luckily they were stopped by a hotel receptionist who said it was not safe outside.

It was a decision that may have saved them from harm.

“Literally seconds later, the building right next to the riad just went down,” Mr Cañadillas said.

“In those moments, it's all based on instincts.”

“To be honest with you, we didn't even know where to go because you hear so many noises, things falling apart.”

“You didn't even know if it's your own building, the building next door. It’s all about instinct.”

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A photograph taken by the group showed the devastation just outside their hotel.

The earthquake was over in minutes, but to the people caught up in it, “it felt like an eternity”.

When the tremors subsided they were told to go into the main square, where residents of the medina had gathered, many of them injured and everyone fearful of aftershocks.

The Gibraltar group managed after some time to retrieve their belongings and make their way to the airport and away from the build-up city centre.

But the airport was closed and they joined many others who had congregated there as they tried to decide what to do next.

In Gibraltar, Ms Vassallo’s family was preparing to catch a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to drive toward Marrakesh to try and collect them.

But at the airport, after trying numerous drivers, they managed to find a man willing to drive them to Tangier.

They set off before dawn in a beat-up vehicle on the seven-hour drive.

“It was the longest drive but at least we got to Tangier, and it was a huge relief to get there,” Mr Cañadillas said.

By later afternoon the group had made it to Tarifa, where their relatives were waiting.

They are now back safely in Gibraltar, still trying to understand the horror of what they witnessed and grateful for their good fortune in escaping unscathed.

“It’s the typical sort of thing you read in the news, but you never expect to be in the place and live through it,” he added.

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