Tenzirt, Morocco – A woman stands, looking dazed and lost. She is a mother, but a mother who has lost her two daughters and she is clearly unable to process what is happening.
She had left her daughters at their grandfather’s house overnight, a decision she was regretting bitterly. The girls loved their grandfather, his stories and his toothless laugh. The three often bickered playfully, loving every minute. Now they were all dead.
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The shock repeated on the faces of all the villagers who had gone to bed on Friday only to be awakened by tremors that wiped their village off the map.
Tenzirt is about 80km (50 miles) south of Marrakesh in the rugged Atlas Mountains, tucked away in the steep turns and dry valley. Hardly anyone pays attention to Tenzirt because it’s so hard to get to.
It lies on a sharp bend in the road out of the village of Mariga – and is so small it is easy to miss.
A number of villagers who had moved to Marrakesh and other Moroccan cities in search of work had come back to check on their families, many waiting on the roads in hopes that someone would give them a ride.
There is no public transport to and from Tenzirt, only one man who owns a truck and ferries everyone around. He heads out to secure the village’s needs and takes people needing medical or pre-natal care to the doctor.
Now he transports injured people, including a woman who went into labour one morning, to Marrakesh hospitals.
Life is tough, hardscrabble, in Tenzirt, and many young people find the isolation and lack of future opportunities frustrating, pushing them to migrate in search of a future.
“Tenzirt was. There is no longer such a thing,” a villager named Mohammed lamented.
Mohammed told Al Jazeera Arabic that the village had about 600 people living in 110 houses, most built out of mud and stone.
So far, 22 residents have died in the earthquake, while about 24 people suffered fractures and serious injuries made worse by the delay in getting them to hospitals in Marrakesh after they were pulled from the rubble by villagers using whatever they could find to dig with.
Most of these houses have now become ruins after the devastating earthquake.
Piles of rubble mark a family home where only a 15-year-old boy survived, now alone after the earthquake, another pile marks where two people died, each pile a story.
There is a refrigerator covered in mud, a suitcase that once embraced its owner’s dreams to travel, and the wrecked car of a man who was only there because he was giving his friend a ride to the village.
The survivors sleep out in the open, the nighttime temperatures plummeting in the high altitudes despite it still being summer.
“Last night, we almost died of cold. We gave the blankets we were able to save from the rubble to women and children, while men struggled without blankets until the morning,” a villager by the name of Abd al-Rahman said.
“What hurts us most is the children’s crying because they’re so cold at night. We also cry because of the cold, but it is a silent scream,” he continued.
The villagers are unhappy with how long it is taking for assistance to reach them. By Sunday evening, only one government official had come by, they said.
Some aid items donated by individuals had reached them, stanching the desperation slightly, but they are still in dire need of shelter, water, food and medicine.