The actor and humorist lived in Casablanca — where his family still resides — until he was 17, before emigrating to Canada and then to France. He woke up upset this Saturday morning, and is appealing for donations by supporting the Secours populaire initiative.
You said the pictures don’t tell the whole story. The Moroccans you spoke to on the phone describe an even tougher situation?
GAD ELMALEH. No that’s not it. What shocked me this morning when I woke up was the state of shock in which everyone I spoke to was, my family, my friends, and others. Of course, we first think of the worst, the dead, the injured, it’s a tragedy for the families. We are not ready to experience this, it’s a horror movie. These houses built of adobe, in villages to which it is even very difficult to access, these landslides on houses and entire villages. We tragically count the dead and the toll is constantly growing, but I also think of the living, of their amazement.
Morocco experienced a very strong earthquake in Agadir in 1960. You were not born, but did you grow up with this memory?
Completely. I was born in 1971, about ten years later, but in all Moroccan families we were still talking about Agadir. There have always been parents, cousins, uncles who died in Agadir, orphans who arrived in Casablanca and Marrakech to be adopted. It is an event anchored in the DNA and the unconscious of all Moroccans. It was part of everyday life during my childhood. But one day we end up forgetting that we live in an earthquake zone. Afterwards, as the years went by, I heard more about the possibility of the Big One in California. I absolutely could not imagine such a catastrophe in my country.
Your parents live in Casablanca. It’s very far from the epicenter, but the earthquake was felt there and everyone got out?
People no longer felt safe, confused and panicked, and wanted to avoid aftershocks, we know thatthere are always after such a powerful earthquake. You shouldn’t stay in high-rise buildings. Many found themselves on the streets in the middle of the night or when they could, in single-storey houses, because they felt safer.
The Secours populaire spoke of considerable financial needs. Is this the reason for your call for donations?
We will all be united. We must rebuild, and rebuild ourselves. This is colossal, unimaginable damage. I call for solidarity. Every donation is important. We really need to mobilize, facilitate access to roads, to destroyed areas, and governments, despite their generosity, will not be able to do everything. Every euro will count. I do it, my family does it. I cry because I am Moroccan, but the enthusiasm of the French upsets me. It is a human tragedy, universal, there is no religion or nationality. We shake hands, we are brothers in humanity.
You have decided to go there soon. Is it vital for you to be present in your native land in this tragedy?
I want to go to those who have been shocked and tested and to sit next to them, as one comforts someone in mourning, to physically extend my hand to a person who is in distress , it is my duty.
To donate: www.secourspopulaire.fr.