Moroccan residents in UAE mourn friends and family lost in earthquake

UAE residents tell of suffering and turmoil caused by disaster in home country

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Moroccan residents in the UAE are trying to come to terms with the devastating loss of relatives and neighbours back home.

Khadija Al Boughaz, a chef at a Dubai restaurant, told The National that her family miraculously survived despite their house being damaged.

However, eight of their neighbours died in the town of Ouzioua in the mountains south of Marrakesh.

“I received a call from my brother in Morocco and his voice was trembling as he told me about how they escaped during the earthquake. What happened is a tragedy,” Ms Al Boughaz said.

While she was relieved to hear about her parents and brothers being safe, she was devastated to hear about the deaths of her friends.

Homes and lives destroyed

One of her neighbours in Morocco perished with her children when their house collapsed, while an elderly neighbour died after a heart attack induced by fear of what was happening.

“My family has been sleeping outside the house since last Saturday because they are afraid to go inside. There are cracks and damage to our house. They are terrified of more tremors,” she said.

The family enter the house only to quickly cook meals and carry out blankets for warmth as they sleep outside.

“Aid and food reached them recently, but they need tents to sleep in," said Ms Al Boughaz, who has been a resident in the UAE for 13 years.

“There has been rainfall, bad weather and another tremor. They are in desperate need."

She is trying to help her family by sending money to her brother, but even that is a challenging task.

“There are many areas disconnected such as Chatbel, Tagdicht and other locations in the mountain. They do not have money and need clothes, tents, and blankets,” she said.

“I can send money, but they live in rough terrain in the mountains, and it is hard to reach them. They are facing exceedingly tough times.

“I'm thankful for the aid and help from different countries, especially from the UAE. They were among the very first nations that helped.”

The earthquake hit Morocco's High Atlas mountains on Friday night, killing thousands.

Counting the cost

Mohammed Hussain, 33, a Moroccan resident in Ras Al Khaimah, told The National that one of his relatives died during the disaster.

“My relative works as a watchman in a building. He died during the disaster when the building collapsed,” said Mr Hussain, who is originally from the city of Kenitra in north-west Morocco.

“It was shocking news. The earthquake was horrifying," he said.

Mr Hussain, who has been resident in the UAE for 10 years, said that his family survived the earthquake, but their home was damaged.

"For many Moroccan residents in the UAE, the news of the earthquake and its aftermath has been nothing short of a nightmare,” he added.

He praised the UAE's humanitarian efforts in sending food, medicine, supplies and rescue teams to his country.

“It is not a strange gesture by the Emirati people and their leaders. They always help people in need and are the first people arriving to help countries during a crisis,” Mr Hussain said.

“No words can describe the appreciation of the Moroccan community in the UAE for the help sent to our nation back home.”

Updated: September 15, 2023, 5:32 AM