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Moroccan earthquake kills 7 family members of Williams Lake woman

‘The whole building they were staying in collapsed and we lost them all’: Kenza Lahlou

A Moroccan immigrant living in Williams Lake lost seven family members in the Sept. 8 earthquake in Morocco.

Kenza Lahlou’s grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins were on holiday in Marrakech when the 6.8 magnitude quake struck.

“The whole building they were staying in collapsed and we lost them all,” Lahlou said.

Her parents live in Casablanca and their home was destroyed as well.

“They were all safe and are now living in tents and sleeping in sleeping bags.”

Lahou’s husband, Alae Zrira, did not lose family members in the quake, but did lose some friends and a good friend of his lost his grandma.

“It was scary sitting and waiting to hear from home when we saw the news,” Zrira said. “Phone towers were gone. My friend had satellite communication, that’s how I was able to call my family.”

Lahou’s family has received help from other people, she said.

“It’s a good thing it is still warm and not winter yet.

They said growing up in Morocco there were minor earthquakes, and bigger ones happened in the north closer to the border with Europe.

“This one happened in the middle of the country,” Zrira said. “If you look at the buildings, you will understand that nothing happened like that before in the last 2,000 years.”

Lots of rich history has been lost, they said.

Historical buildings and artifacts are in the rubble and some mountain villages were completely destroyed.

“It’s very devastating,” they said, explaining many of those small villages relied on tourism. “These people have no homes and have no way to make a living.”

Hospitals and schools were destroyed as well and the couple hopes to raise money to directly fund the construction of a school or hospital in a small town and have started a GoFundMe.

Zrira’s father used to be a school principal and worked with the ministry of education in Morocco and will help at that end.

Lahlou and Zrira met in Williams Lake after moving to the area in 2019.

She was talking on her phone to family outside a coffee shop and he walked by and heard her speaking in Arabic.

He stopped and asked if she was from Morocco. They started dating and were married in January 2023.

She works at the Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre and he works at Boston Pizza.

As of Sept. 29, the death toll from the earthquake was at least 2,901 people, with the number of people injured at least 5,530.

The Moroccan Interior Ministry confirmed 2,884 people have been buried and Lahlou said her relatives were part of a mass burial because so many people had died at once.

“I’m still in shock. It is so surreal.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Moroccan couple in Williams Lake excited home team is playing world cup semi-finals

READ MORE: ‘It was terrifying’: B.C. resident recalls Morocco earthquake

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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