New Jersey's Moroccan community is rallying support for victims of a deadly earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday, followed by an aftershock Sunday. More than 2,600 people were killed in the 6.8-magnitude earthquake, which crumbled buildings in ancient towns and spurred a desperate search for survivors.
"Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased," said Yassine Elkaryani of Teaneck, president of the Clifton-based Moroccan American Recreational Organization Council, or MAROC. "This is a calamity that has affected everyone in Morocco. I encourage everybody to stay strong and to be hopeful and to do their park to help."
MAROC has shared information online about how to contribute to disaster relief through Zakat Foundation of America, a charity that is providing medical supplies, hygiene kits, food, tents and mats to victims on the ground.
On Sunday, the Ibn Khaldun Center, a mosque in Kearny, raised funds at its monthly family dinner for relief efforts. Elkaryani said other mosques are expected to hold fundraisers after Friday prayers this week.
Members of New Jersey's Moroccan community, many of whom live in and around Paterson, Jersey City and Kearny, scrambled to reach family throughout the weekend. Elmwood Park resident Mohamed El Filali called his relatives in Marrakech, a city that is 50 miles from the epicenter. They are uninjured, he said, but are sleeping outdoors with other city residents for fear of aftershocks.
"I got an avalanche of calls from family and friends and people who knew I was Moroccan and wanted to check on my family, Friday, yesterday and today nonstop," El Filali said. "People have shown a great deal of kindness and sympathy."
Injuries and damage were reported in Marrakech, an UNESCO World Heritage site and popular tourist area, but villages in rural mountainous areas nearby bore the brunt of the impact. Rescuers were still searching Monday amid the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors.
MAROC plans to launch a phone line people can call to find out how to help, Elkaryani said. Morocco, which has strict rules on money transfers, created an account to make it easier for organizations to donate to relief efforts, he added.
Zakat is among the established charities delivering humanitarian help on the ground. The International Medical Corps, Doctors Without Borders and Global Giving are also included in a roundup of reputable organizations on the site Charity Navigator.
The earthquake was the biggest to hit the North African country in over a century, USA TODAY reported.
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In 2022, 91¢ from each dollar donated went directly toward programs serving those in need. 4¢ went to administrative costs & 5¢ went to fundraising costs.