Oak Park native, Moroccan husband collect donations for mountain rescue team following deadly earthquake

Chicago
By Chicago 7 Min Read

Former Oak Park resident Monica Miller and mountain guide Brahim Inknjtaoun met in Morocco — and wound up getting married.

Although the couple now lives thousands of miles away in Omaha, Neb., they have never forgotten the country that brought them together. So when Morocco was rocked by a devastating earthquake over the weekend, Miller and Inknjtaoun knew they had to help.

“The region that was hit is the poorest of the poor in Morocco,” Miller said. “It devastated people who had not much to give to start with.”

Miller, who grew up in suburban Oak Park, spent over a year in Morocco as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2018.

There, she met Inknjtaoun, a Moroccan who was working as a licensed tour guide with the Association of Tour Guides of the Anti-Atlas, a professional group of licensed mountain guides in southern Morocco.

The couple is now collecting donations through an online fundraiser to send to Inknjtaoun’s former team of mountain guides, who are using their skills to aid those in the most remote areas of the mountains in the hard-hit Taroudant region.

Members of the Association of Tour Guides of the Anti-Atlas prepare to travel to aid those affected by the powerful magnitude 6.8 quake in Morocco. Brahim Inknjtaoun, a former member, now lives in the U.S. and is collecting donations to assist.

Members of the Association of Tour Guides of the Anti-Atlas prepare to travel to aid those affected by the powerful magnitude 6.8 quake in Morocco. Brahim Inknjtaoun, a former member, now lives in the U.S. and is collecting donations to assist.

GoFundMe

“This group of mountain guides are going into the villages which they have found to be completely leveled and lifting survivors out to the main roads so that ambulances can access them,” said Miller, 29. “Our only role in this is to try and get some money for them and try to support as best we can from the States.” 

Inknjtaoun, 30, said that other than some damage to their apartment building, his family is OK.

But he said many of the roads in the rural mountain areas were made nearly impassable due to the quake, making it hard for aid to reach those in remote villages.

But the guides know how to navigate the treacherous paths and are trained in rescues and first-aid.

“Most of the people there are now outside without a home in these kinds of villages,“ Inknjtaoun said, adding that winter is not far off, so the guides are also providing coats and blankets.

Any donations collected will be used to purchase those supplies, as well as food, water and medicines.

“I feel sorry that I can’t help on the ground. I’d like to help my team,” Inknjtaoun said. “But I find a way that I can help from here, so that’s why we started the donations, to help them as much as we can.”

The disaster has left more than 2,800 people dead — a number that is expected to rise — and the United Nations estimates that 300,000 people were affected by Friday night’s magnitude 6.8 quake.

Members of the Association of Tour Guides of the Anti-Atlas hike through areas hit by the earthquake. Team members are using their knowledge of mountain paths to help with search and rescue efforts.

Members of the Association of Tour Guides of the Anti-Atlas hike through areas hit by the earthquake. Team members are using their knowledge of mountain paths to help with search and rescue efforts.

The Association of Tour Guides of the Anti-Atlas Facebook

In a region where many build bricks out of mud, Friday’s earthquake toppled unreinforced buildings unable to withstand a powerful, shallow depth temblor, leaving people trapped in rubble and sending others fleeing in terror.

Most of the dead — 1,604 — were in the Al Haouz district in the High Atlas Mountains, the ministry said.

The epicenter of Friday’s quake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, about 44 miles south of Marrakech. The region is known for scenic villages and valleys tucked in the High Atlas Mountains.

It was the strongest earthquake to hit the North African country in over 120 years, according to USGS records dating to 1900, but it was not the deadliest. In 1960, a magnitude 5.8 temblor struck near the city of Agadir, killing at least 12,000. That quake prompted Morocco to update construction rules, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors.

“It’s pretty bad,” Miller said. “It’s been pretty rough going, there’s a lot of destruction, a lot of homes are ruined, there’s going to be a lot of displaced people. They are recovering a lot of bodies as well, there’s been a lot of death in the area.”

Many organizations are accepting donations to aid in the recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Global Giving has launched a fundraising effort to help those affected by the temblor. The organization said the donations will initially be used to cover survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, medicine and shelter.

Brahim Inknjtaoun’s former team with the Association of Tour Guides of the Anti-Atlas help a Moroccan villager.

Brahim Inknjtaoun’s former team with the Association of Tour Guides of the Anti-Atlas help a Moroccan villager.

Association of Tour Guides of the Anti-Atlas Facebook

UNICEF is also collecting donations. Doctors Without Borders has sent teams to the affected areas to assess needs in the region. They are accepting donations online.

Nonprofit CARE Morocco is also collecting funds to help those in need.

Inknjtaoun said that as a mountain guide he frequently brought people into those remote villages. He described the people who live there as being generous, despite not having much themselves.

“They are very kind and have a lot of hospitality,” Inknjtaoun said. “They are poor people, they don’t have a lot of things to offer for you, but they will still offer you everything, because they are like that.”

Miller echoed her husband’s sentiments, emphasizing that the area is in dire need of help.

Contributing: Associated Press

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