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COACH TOM SAINTFIET ‘TERRIFIED’ AS HUGE EARTH QUAKE KILLS HUNDREDS

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The Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet said he feared a plane had crashed into his hotel after experiencing Friday’s devastating Morocco earthquake.

Belgian and his team were in Marrakesh for yesterday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo.

The country’s interior ministry said more than 820 people have died as a result of the quake.

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Measuring The magnitude 6.8, it sent people rushing into the streets in Marrakesh and other cities.

Saintfiet described the experience as “shocking and terrible”.

“At first I heard a lot of noise and thought it was someone knocking on my door, ” he told BBC World Service’s Mani Djazmi.

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“A few seconds later I thought that a plane had crashed into the hotel because we’re close to the airport but a second or two later, I knew it was an earthquake.

“It seems it was only 30 seconds but it felt endless. It was really scary. The walls were really shaking and things were falling down from the ceiling and the walls. I never in my life saw a building moving like that.

“When it stopped, I started running and checking if my team members were also out of their rooms.

“Then we ran outside the hotel and all went to the pool area and slept there in the open air with the other guests as we were told that we couldn’t return to our rooms.

“It was very scary. We heard ambulances all night and kept checking the news. It’s a terrible experience for us but most of all for all the casualties who lost their lives and the people of Morocco.”

Sunday’s game, which was moved to the Moroccan city because The Gambia’s stadium was deemed unfit to host internationals, went ahead but Saturday’s qualifier between Morocco and Liberia – due to take place in Agadir – has been called off.

The Gambia’s game against Congo decided who goes through to next year’s Afcon finals in the Ivory Coast.

The Confederation of African Football said: “The national football family extends its sincere condolences and compassion to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured.”

Morocco and Paris St-Germain defender Achraf Hakimi posted on social media: “We are going through a difficult time for all our fellow citizens. It’s time to help each other save as many lives as possible. My condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.”

Saintfiet added that some of the squad who play in Turkey had also experienced February’s earthquake, which killed former Newcastle player Christian Atsu, and were in shock.

“I know that several players didn’t want to play the game,” he said.

“We are sportsmen and want to qualify and to be fair but a lot of players, their mindset was totally not on football.

“If there are so many casualties in this city is it wise to let us play football? Maybe we could play in October?

“At the moment the focus is not on football but the welfare of the players and all the people in Morocco and Marrakech.”

Congo’s coach Paul Put said his players were unharmed.

“We are OK but still in shock. Mentally it’s difficult to keep up the concentration.

BBC

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