On Friday 8th September 2023, a devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco. The epicentre was 70km south of Marrakesh in the Atlas Mountains. The earthquake left nearly 3000 people dead and damaged around 50,000 homes. The worst hit areas were remote villages in the mountains close to the epicentre.
ShelterBox has responded in Morocco, supporting thousands of people in the Atlas Mountains. We supplied tents, kitchen sets, thermal blankets and kitchen sets. The aid had to be distributed quickly before the onset of the freezing winter. Our response was greatly helped by working with Rotary in Morocco, District 9010.
Mohamed shared with us his story of personal tragedy and community leadership after the earthquake.
“Life before the earthquake was normal”
Mohamed is the community leader of a small village in the Al Haouz region of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. He worked outside his village at a local maternity home as a security guard.
Mohamed reflected on his life before the earthquake. “I have spent my whole life here, life before the earthquake was normal, my father was a farmer and I helped him sometimes, but my job was at the maternity home.”
When describing his family, Mohamed touched on some of the tragedy that affected him in the earthquake.
“I got married in 2007, I have two daughters and a son, my son died in the earthquake, he was two and a half years old, my wife was a housewife [also lost in the earthquake], I was the head householder, I took care of my family and my parents.”
“It was getting stronger, I thought an airplane was going to fall down"
On the night of the earthquake Mohamed was working at the maternity home, a few miles outside the village. He remembers the moment the earthquake struck.
“I wanted to make tea but I decided not to, I went outside the building, I sat there for 15 minutes then I heard the voice [the sound of the earthquake], it was getting stronger, I thought an airplane was going to fall down, I changed my place and walked 4 meters then I felt the ground shaking, like waves, after a while it turned to vibrations.”
Mohamed ran back into the maternity home to find the house association leader. People were screaming that he was dead. Mohamed then received a call from his daughter, to say that their house had collapsed. The entire family apart from Mohamed and his daughter were buried inside. “In that moment I lost my mind, I just wanted to see my family. I took my motorcycle to come back here.”
The journey back to the village took Mohamed all night. Along the way he discovered people in need of help, and roads blocked by rubble. He also experienced aftershocks.
At 3am he received another phone call from his daughter to say that his other daughter and father were safe. However his wife and son were still buried in the rubble.
Finally in the early hours of the morning Mohamed reached a neighbouring village to his own. At this point the roads became impassable. Here also Mohamed also received the worst news possible.
“I met a man that I knew there, he told me that my wife, my sister, my son, my nephew, and my neighbour were dead. I kept walking and I arrived at my village, I found some of them there in one place, I went to behind my house to get some blankets to cover them.”
“ShelterBox has been very good to us since day one…”
ShelterBox supported Mohamed’s village with tents and household items. Mohamed shared the difference this would make to the community.
“ShelterBox has been very good to us since day one, they gave us a promise and today [distributions] they made it happen.”
“The tents are 100% helpful because without them we have no shelter, we are already without a house and the tents that we already have are not good enough to protect us from the snow and rain. I shared the video and pictures of the ShelterBox tents with the community, they were happy and looking forward to the day that we received them.”
“Honestly, I thought about our situation the day after the earthquake and what is going to happen to us. Not just me but the women, children, and old people. How will they survive without houses and shelter? How will they stay outside if it rains or snows, but now we are good. We have these tents, we have a lot of blankets that good people and associations have given to us, so we are all good, we are safe.”
“For now, I am focusing on the village and its needs…”
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, Mohamed was dedicated to supporting his community. However, once the aid was distributed the reality of what had happened started to sink in.
“It has been 40 days since the earthquake, life felt normal, I was busy helping my community. But then, after everyone got their shelter and people got used to living in the tents, I started feeling lonely and I started thinking about how much I lost that night.”
Despite everything, Mohamed plans to continue supporting his community.
“For now, I am focusing on the village and its needs because the one that I was working hard for and hoping a good future for, is dead now.” He said, referring to his son.
“I will stay next to my community and help them with whatever I can.”
“The concern of the people here is how to make their lives easier outside of their homes, for now they all have tents, and they have started to build toilets and kitchens. They are trying to make this place like home. They hope to go back to their farming but cannot at the moment. I am just waiting for the maternity home to start again, to join them as a security man.”
Despite all that had happened, Mohamed finished by thanking ShelterBox for their help.
“Everything that happens is a destiny that we cannot change, so we accept it and I thank you once again for your help.”