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British family sleeps on football pitch with bereft residents

A British single mother of three has described the terrifying moment she escaped a hotel in Morocco following the deadly earthquake and slept on a football pitch in “freezing and wet” weather with her three children and bereft local residents.

Kenni Ritchings, 36 and an accountant from Bristol, told i she “got emotional” seeing so many locals in the western city of Marrakesh camped on the side of the road with gazebos and umbrellas as their homes were no longer safe.

While the family’s plight pales in comparison to that of residents who have lost everything, Ms Ritchings said she wanted to speak out to help highlight the impact of the disaster.

The tourist, who had been in the popular destination since Monday last week with her three children and six other family members, had her trip cut short when “the whole room started shaking quite aggressively” as the 6.8-magnitude struck on Friday night.

The death toll from the earthquake, the most powerful to hit the north African country in more than a century, has risen to at least 2,901, while the number of people injured more than doubled to 5,530, state television reported.

Kerri Rutchings, supplied
Ms Ritchings said ambulances streamed past them on the night of the earthquake (Photo: supplied)

The situation was most desperate for people in remote areas cut off by landslides that blocked access roads, while relief efforts were stepping up in other locations with distribution of food and water.

Recalling the moment her family felt the tremors, Ms Ritchings said she was getting ready for bed when “the whole thing started shaking”.

She said she screamed “run” to her family as they rushed out of the hotel.

Kerri Ritchings, supplied
The accountant said that upon returning to her room to grab her belongings, she saw damage caused by the earthquake (Photo: supplied)

She said they were outside the Aqua Mirage Club waiting for some guidance before they decided to follow everyone else to a football pitch, where 60 to 70 people had gathered.

“We spent the whole night in the football field,” the accountant said, adding that there were ambulances driving on the main road next to them throughout the night.

“It traumatised the kids, they weren’t going in any buildings, there was no way they were going to go back to their rooms.

“Seeing all these cracks and being in the actual block when it was shaking there was no way I was going back there, it was compromised and I just thought, ‘another earthquake and it’ll be flattened’.”

About an hour later, Ms Ritchings made a “mad dash” back to her room to get her family’s valuables and some quilts and clothes to see the children through the night.

Sharing images of people camping on the football pitch, she said: “We all had the same idea, just grabbing the quilts from the room, it looked like the football field was covered in quilts.”

Ms Ritchings said it wasn’t until 10am on Saturday that a representative of their travel agency Tui showed up, but she claimed they had “no information” on what would happen next.

At 6.30pm she heard through another family that they had been put on a repatriation flight departing 11pm that night. Ms Ritching received Tui’s notification an hour later.

i has contacted Tui for comment.

On the way to the airport, the family drove past locals who were reduced to living outdoors in makeshift shelters.

She said: “They didn’t want to stay in their house for another night either.

“My kids said to me, ‘mum I am glad we have a house to get back to but some of them don’t even have a home now’.

“I think if the children weren’t with me, I’d be out helping.

“It was emotional to see people setting up makeshift camps in the street and knowing it would affect them for a while whereas we were lucky to have a home to go to.”

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