HASTINGS, Minnesota — When Hassan Sahouani saw the news that an earthquake had hit Morocco, he first called his sister.
"She immediately started sending me videos," Sahouani said. "It's a disaster for that region. People are not prepared and no government can be prepared for something like that because it's overwhelming."
The magnitude 6.8 earthquake on Sept. 8 is the biggest to hit the North African country in 120 years. At least 2,900 people have died from the earthquake.
Sahouani lives in Hastings but is originally from Morocco. He moved to America when he was 27 years old.
"I'm actually from that region exactly, that province in Morocco which is just a little bit... southern part of Marrakech which is a well-known city in Morocco for tourism," Sahouani explained.
Sahouani's sister lives in Marrakech while his niece lives in the small village of Asni in the Atlas Mountains.
In a video sent to Sahouani, you can see his niece and her husband walking down the stairs of their building while it's crumbling around them.
"As they got out, the whole building collapsed and leaned... all they had on their back were their pajamas," Sahouani said.
Sahouani said his niece and her family lost everything. Meanwhile, his sister's home is still standing but sustained damage with floor-to-ceiling cracks in the walls and across the ceiling.
"My sister lost five of her teacher friends... plus some of her students," Sahouani said.
He went on to say, "Where do you start? So I'm just telling them, look there is something positive... that you didn't die."
Sahouani and his family have started a GoFundMe to raise money for his family members. Some money will also go to his sister's friends who are helping women in the countryside who lost the providers in their families. Already his sister and her neighbor were able to purchase insulin, antibiotics, ointments, ibuprofen, infant formula, bandages, and other pharmaceuticals to help others.
"Culturally from those countries, we hide our sadness... and mostly you do not beg for money," Sahouani said. But Sahouani and his family heard from others who wanted to help and it encouraged them to start the GoFundMe.
"You have to help," Sahouani said. "Governments cannot fill in the void completely so people come together in this type of horrible event and it's so sad."
If you would like to help, you can find their GoFundMe page here.