California residents steps in to aid in Morocco relief effort

As rescue and relief efforts stretch into a fourth day in Morocco following a magnitude 6.8 earthquake, aid and donations are continuing to pour into the country, including from California and the Bay Area. According to former FEMA disaster coordinator, Mark Neveau, the help is desperately needed, because some of the areas hardest hit by this earthquake are very remote and don't have the infrastructure or resources needed to handle a disaster of this magnitude.

"It’s going to be difficult to find folks, it’s going to be difficult to pull them out of there," said Neveau. "Building construction is mud bricks and they don’t withstand much of the earth shaking and rumbling unfortunately."

More than 2000 people are now reported dead, and many more remain unaccounted for, while thousands are now sleeping on the streets. So far, the Moroccan government is accepting aid from just four countries, and the US government is not one of them. That means, so far, the US has been unable to send its urban search and rescue teams.

"They’re designed specifically to do this type of work in foreign countries, located in Virginia and down in Los Angeles County. So they’re very talented, very capable. We’re hoping at some point the country feels comfortable allowing them to come over and help," said Neveau.

While US government help remains off the table, Morocco is accepting aid from non-governmental organizations in America, including Los Angeles-based volunteer search and rescue group, Team Rubicon. Art Delacruz says his group is trained to respond, "before, after and during natural disasters, so we’re currently constituting this larger team that’s anywhere from 12 to 14 people and they have the capability…to sustain themselves and treat 50 people per day for up to two weeks." 

Meantime, others in the Bay Area are doing their part by raising money for relief efforts. Among them, is Moroccan born Lahcen Lhaoui, who lives in Hayward.  

"When I heard it in the news, and a friend of mine called me, I said oh my God. I said this is going to be devastating," said Lhaoui.

Lhaoui's immediate family are all accounted for, but some of his more distant relatives are still missing. He started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for an accredited non-profit based in one of Morocco’s hardest hit communities.

"Those regions [are] very hard to rescue people because there are no roads. The roads that lead to them are kind of completely demolished, and people, they’re still in the rubble right there," said Lhaoui. "They need shelter, and the winter season is coming soon."

So far the fundraiser has brought in more than $10,000 dollars. He says some of the money will be used to buy tents for people who’ve lost their homes, and for the aid workers at the non-profit, many of whom are also now victims of the quake.  


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