“They are believers:” UNL student from Casablanca shares an update about earthquake recovery efforts in Morocco

Oct. 12, 2023, 5:30 p.m. ·

A map shows the distance between Casablanca and the epicenter of the earthquake -- about 180 miles apart!
Mohammed Sbai's family lives more than 180 miles away from the epicenter of the earthquake. It was one of the most intense quakes in Morocco's recorded history. (Graphic by Joe McMullen, Nebraska Public Media)

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LINCOLN — When natural disasters leave people at the mercy of mother nature, faith can help carry them through.

This was the case for Mohammed Sbai’s family in September.

Around 2 a.m. on September 8, Sbai’s family felt tremors from a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated Morocco.

It was the most intense earthquake in Morocco in 120 years, according to the Associated Press.

His family lives in Casablanca, Morocco, which is more than 180 miles from the epicenter.

Sbai is currently a senior mechanical engineering major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 4,716 miles away from the situation his family was going through.

“They stayed up probably all night because they didn't know if it was going to hit again, you know, everyone just stayed outside,” Sbai said.

Sbai said his family prayed that aftershocks wouldn’t hit Casablanca in the days following the earthquake.

“They’re doing good. They are believers, and they just pray that it's not going to happen again,” Sbai said. “And, it's not the first time that this has happened in the country. So, it’s certainly frustrating and scary. And, it's just like the thought of it brings worries.”

He feels sad when thinking about the thousands of families who lost loved ones and the hundreds of thousands of people who were displaced from their homes in his home country.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the tragedy, according to AP, with at least 300,000 people displaced from their homes.

Sbai said he’s thankful for students at UNL who helped raise money for relief efforts and for the support of the Islamic Foundation of Lincoln.

“I know a lot of people donated that day when they were doing the cookie sale at the UNL Union and other people reached out to me asking how they can help, including the IFL,” Sbai said.

He says the Moroccan government did a good job of securing housing and shelter for people who were affected.

But, communities in the Atlas Mountain region could take five or more years to rebuild, according to AP.

Food, tents, and other supplies are still needed.

The following places are recommended by the Islamic Foundation of Lincoln as reputable organizations to send money and other resources to, in order to aid relief efforts in Morocco: