NORFOLK, Va. — A devastating earthquake late Friday night across the Atlantic in the North African nation of Morocco hits close to home in Hampton Roads. Now, a Norfolk restaurant owner is preparing to travel back to his home country to assist with relief efforts.
"It's huge. It's devastating to the country," said Omar Boukhriss, the owner of Norfolk restaurant Omar's Carriage House.
As of Saturday, government officials in the North African nation said at least 2,012 people have died. ABC News also reported at least 2,000 were hurt, most of them critically.
"The entire Morocco felt it, even Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, everybody came out of their homes," said Boukhriss.
He told 13News Now the hardest hit places include the historic city of Marrakech and villages in the Atlas Mountains. Many homes -- built from clay and hay -- could not withstand the seismic impact.
"The damage. It can be dramatic and rapid," said Boukhriss.
Born and raised in Morocco, Boukhriss pursued his American dream by operating Omar's Carriage House in Norfolk's Freemason area.
While he grew up in Casablanca, Boukhriss has family members in Marrakech. He said they are doing OK. His wife is trying to contact relatives living in a rural area in the mountains.
"We're hoping that people are surviving and that help will come on the right time," said Boukhriss.
He is planning to fly to Morocco within the week and bring along what was raised from this GoFundMe page his family set up. Boukrhiss has pledged to match the total donation amount raised.
The longtime restaurateur said money will go directly to victims.
"This one is really very close to the heart, I really want to do it in person and I want to go there with the funds to either help them build their homes or while we're there, we can provide for them clothing or even tents."
He also said you can also donate money for relief efforts by dropping it off at his restaurant. Omar's Carriage House is located at 313 West Bute St, Norfolk, VA 23510.