Israeli teams help out in Morocco as the earthquake toll passes 2,800

Hashem is good to [those who hope in Him], A haven on a day of distress; He is mindful of those who seek refuge in Him.




(the israel bible)

September 12, 2023

4 min read

The death toll from the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Morocco on Friday was the country’s deadliest in over six decades, killing more than 2,800 people and injuring more than 2,421. These numbers are expected to creep higher as rescue workers continue to search the rubble for survivors. The epicenter was in Ighil, a mountainous rural commune in Al-Haouz province near the Oukaimeden ski resort in the Atlas Mountains, but tremors were felt throughout the country and as far away as southern Spain.

The hardest hit was the Al-Haouz region, where at least 18,000 families were reportedly left homeless. Largely agrarian, the region was experiencing a harsh drought when the earthquake hit.

International aid has been mobilized, and UN teams have arrived in Morocco. The Moroccan Ministry of Interior accepted search and rescue-focused international aid from Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. Financial aid has been provided by China and France as well. Algeria, which broke off ties with Morocco in 2021 after escalating tensions focused on the disputed Western Sahara region, said it would open its airspace for humanitarian and medical flights.

An advanced team from United Hatzalah, the international emergency medical and rescue NGO, has been active in Morocco since early Sunday morning. After the earthquake, Hatzalah received numerous requests for assistance from the local Jewish community and from organization volunteers who were present in Morocco when the disaster struck. As a result, on Saturday night, the organization sent a small delegation of responders from different countries to assist. This ‘go’ team was tasked with building an on-site situation assessment in preparation for a larger delegation that would be sent later. 

“Our initial team on the ground aims to create a situation assessment, connect with local resources and government agencies, as well as meet with community leaders to gauge what assistance is needed,” said Dov Maisel, Vice President of Operations for United Hatzalah. 

The team is currently meeting with several high-ranking Moroccan officials to better understand the emergency medical and humanitarian needs in the disaster area. The team is working in complete cooperation with the local governments and community leaders.  

Additionally, the team met up with and grouped together volunteers from the organization who were already in Morocco for vacation and the Hillula of Rabbi Haim Pinto, which is set to take place on the 26th of Elul (Tuesday). 

“As with previous disasters around the globe, United Hatzalah is assisting as quickly as possible both with emergency response and humanitarian aid,” said President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer.  

As an international NGO with chapters in numerous countries around the globe, United Hatzalah has responded to over a dozen international crises over the past eight years, including most recently the earthquake in Turkey, which transpired in February 2023. During that rescue mission UH medical as well as search and rescue teams assisted the larger IDF team in rescuing 15 people, some several days after the earthquake occurred. 

“One of the reasons why we are so effective is that we have a global network of volunteers and partner organizations and we are always working to increase that capacity to be able to provide disaster relief as soon as possible anywhere around the globe,” explained Vice President of Operations Dovie Maisel. “Utilizing the experience we have built up from previous missions, we can dispatch a team and respond within just a few hours, get boots on the ground, create a situational analysis, and then send additional rescue and aid teams as needed.”

“These missions are dynamic and each disaster response is different,” Maisel continued. “Our missions focus on providing as much assistance as we can as quickly as we can to save the lives of those affected by the crisis. We also work with local leadership and provide training wherever needed to create a level of sustainability and pass on our knowledge to local entities so that they can continue the mission when our teams depart. In Morocco specifically, as soon as our team landed, they began working with local leadership in the various disaster areas to obtain a situational analysis. They will act as a force multiplier working together with local agencies and rescue efforts that are already ongoing. They are also making preparations for a larger team to arrive should that be deemed necessary. We focus on providing emergency medical care and assisting in rescue efforts wherever we are most needed.” 

Israeli humanitarian aid groups SmartAID, IsraAID, and NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief have also dispatched teams to Morocco to help in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake.

A spokesperson for SmartAID said its 20-member search-and-rescue team was heading to Marrakech and would also distribute clean water, solar power energy units, and telecommunications systems within the next couple of days as a separate cargo.

“Marrakech’s hospitals are overwhelmed, grappling with a massive influx of injured individuals. We stand in solidarity with Morocco, and our team is prepared to provide critical aid, rescue operations, and support during this challenging time,” said Shachar Zahavi, founding director of SmartAID.

There were no official relations between Israel and Morocco until the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020. Despite multiple offers of assistance from the Israel Defense Forces, Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency medical response service and various Israeli ministries, Morocco has declined to request assistance from the Jewish State formally. Without a formal request, Israel cannot deploy its highly effective search and rescue, medical, and humanitarian aid teams to the country.

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