An NI doctor living in Marrakesh has said she expects an influx of casualties at the hospital where she works following an earthquake that has killed more than 1,000 people.
The 6.8 magnitude quake struck central Morocco just after 23:00 local time on Friday causing damage in several areas.
Claire McCaughey from Bangor, County Down, has been living in the north African city for 15 years.
“There is devastation in the mountain areas,” Dr McCaughey told BBC News NI.
The quake’s epicentre was in the High Atlas Mountains, 71km (44 miles) south-west of Marrakesh.
“Those people are starting to make their way to the city,” she added.
The earthquake has caused less damage in the city itself, but Dr McCaughey said her house was violently shaken.
“It was violent shaking of the whole house – things falling off shelves, falling off walls,” she said.
She had to “wake the girls up and just kind of run outside in our nightwear, in our bare feet”, she added.
The family then spent the night – “like much of the country” – outdoors.
“For us here in the city where the damage has been less extreme, there is a lot of fear, a lot of panic. And that’s the talk: ‘Will there be more, can we sleep in our beds tonight? What comes next for us?'” she added.
‘We’ll do what we have to’
For now, Dr McCaughey is preparing to aid those injured in the disaster. She works in a private hospital where staff are preparing to take in an overflow of patients from the public system.
“The hospital system here is chronically underfunded and overused… There’s difficulties with the public hospitals here on the best of days,” she said.
But she is confident that contingency plans “will start to kick in”.
“Response to crisis is something that I have seen happen here on more than one occasion,” she added.
“We will have a lot of work; we will get exhausted… we’ll do what we have to do.”
Meanwhile, a search and rescue team from Northern Ireland is getting ready to travel to Morocco.
K9 Search and Rescue is an all-volunteer team based in County Down.
It specialises in providing searches for coastal, urban, rural and disaster response.
The team’s Ryan Gray said it had been “a very busy morning” since being alerted about the earthquake.
“All the international search and rescue teams that may be offering their assistance will be putting on their availability and what equipment they can bring,” Mr Gray said.
“We’ve already done that. We’ve already reached out to the Moroccan embassy to offer our assistance.
“They have our details and they know we’re ready to go, really at a moment’s notice now.”
He said the team had been put on standby very early on Saturday morning
“Those that have been trained in this sort of environment, earthquakes, they will be potentially reaching out to their employers to see if they can get time off work to go,” he said
“They’ll be preparing their kit, those who can take their dogs will be preparing their dogs.”
Mr Gray said his dog Max “absolutely knows” something is happening.
“They’re very intelligent,” he said.
In February of this year K9 Search and Rescue was involved in searches after Turkey’s earthquake disaster.
The team has also been involved in searches for missing people throughout Ireland.
The Moroccan interior ministry has said last night’s earthquake killed people in the provinces and municipalities of al-Haouz, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant,.
Many people spent the night out in the open as the Moroccan government had warned them not to go back into their homes in case of severe aftershocks.
Hospitals in Marrakesh have seen an influx of injured people, and the authorities have called on residents to donate blood.
There are also reports of families trapped under the rubble of their homes in the city, and damage to parts of the Medina, a Unesco World heritage Site.
Some buildings have collapsed, one resident told the Reuters news agency. Several clips on X show buildings crashing down, but the BBC has not identified where they were.
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said it was closely monitoring the situation in Morocco.
“All Irish citizens in the affected areas are asked to follow safety instructions from local authorities and monitor local media,” it said.
“If urgent, the Embassy of Ireland in Rabat, Morocco can be contacted in-country on +212 6 66 933 599. Any concerned family members in Ireland can contact the Department of Foreign Affairs at 01 408 2000.”
UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly tweeted: “The UK is continuing to support British nationals in the region.
“We stand ready to help our Moroccan friends in whatever way we can.
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