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United Hatzalah on the ground in quake-stricken Morocco

The Israeli government is prepared to assist in relief efforts if and when Rabat requests it • Jerusalem's Chords Bridge was lit up in the colors of the Moroccan flag.

A United Hatzalah volunteer helping local people in Morocco's High Atlas Mountains after Friday's damaging earthquake, Sept. 10, 2023. Credit: United Hatzalah.
A United Hatzalah volunteer helping local people in Morocco's High Atlas Mountains after Friday's damaging earthquake, Sept. 10, 2023. Credit: United Hatzalah.

A United Hatzalah advance team on Sunday began preparations in quake-stricken Morocco for a wider operation in the coming days.

The Israel-based initial responders arrived in the country on Saturday night, following Friday’s devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake centered in the High Atlas mountain range, about 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of Marrakesh.

State-run broadcaster 2M reported on Sunday that at least 2,122 people were killed and 2,421 injured by the temblor. The World Health Organization said that more than 300,000 people in the area were affected.

“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. 

In addition to meeting and coordinating with Moroccan government officials and community leaders, United Hatzalah volunteers who were on vacation in the North African country or on pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Haim Pinto when the earthquake hit joined the relief efforts, according to the NGO.

The responders left Marrakesh on Sunday for the mountain villages in the region of Tizi Ouaddou that have yet to be reached by rescue teams. According to the NGO, they found “devastation” but also “a lot of resilient and strong people.”

United Hatzalah President and Founder Eli Beer said that the NGO was “assisting as quickly as possible both with emergency response and humanitarian aid” as the organization has done at previous disaster sites around the world.

Meanwhile, the State of Israel has offered to send search and rescue personnel and humanitarian aid to its Abraham Accords ally but has yet to receive a response from Moroccan officials.

“There is a long list of countries that offered aid as Israel did, but they are still waiting for an answer. The authorities there are making their calculations and will reach out as soon as they see fit,” David Saranga, director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Digital Diplomacy Bureau and a member of the Israeli delegation to Morocco, told Army Radio on Monday morning.

On Sunday night, Jerusalem’s landmark Chords Bridge was lit with the colors of the Moroccan flag in a display of solidarity.

The Chords Bridge lit up in the colors of the Moroccan flag, Jerusalem, Sept. 10, 2023. Credit: Yoav Dodkevich/TPS.

“Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, sends its condolences and prayers to the families of those affected by the earthquake, as well as wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured,” read a statement by the municipality. 

“Morocco is a true friend of the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem. We will assist as much as is necessary in whatever way we can to the Moroccan people and their government.”

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