Mustafa heard his son yelling for help almost two days after Morocco’s earthquake struck — then the calls stopped

4 minutes, 50 seconds Read

For three days, Mustafa Chiahad has been sitting on a mound of broken concrete pierced by metal rods, looking at the ruins of a house where his 15-year-old son is still buried.

His son Said was living with his grandparents in the Moroccan village of Talat N’Yacoub when the 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck.

The village – now ground zero for destruction – is almost completely destroyed.

Mustafa says he is not sure whether his son is alive or not.

“The morning after the earthquake, we got a call from the village and someone told me that Saeed was dead,” he says.

“So I didn’t tell my wife anything.

“But when I reached the village I could hear him till about 3 o’clock [on Sunday], Since then, we haven’t heard anything.”

A man on a stretcher with his head bandaged, with another man sitting next to him

Thousands of people have been injured in the earthquake in Morocco.,ABC News: Heather Jones,

Talat N’Yaqoub is near the epicenter where Friday’s earthquake struck.

Mustafa watches as a handful of rescue workers emerge from the ruins of his parents’ home.

The team thinks they know where Saeed is inside the collapsed house, but getting to him is a slow task.

They use their hands to scrape off pieces of concrete, and throw it on the remains of other nearby houses that have collapsed.

Dust from the debris swirls around the father and he puts a mask on his face for protection.

His skin has burnt due to sitting in the scorching African sun for several days.

Partially destroyed buildings, surrounded by debris

Tlat N’Yaqoub is largely destroyed by a devastating earthquake.,ABC News: Heather Jones,

Rescuers attempt to use an inflatable cushion to prop up a wall that has fallen horizontally and is blocking the rescue effort.

But lifting the concrete slab is not enough, and so they start the work again with their own hands.

Mustafa sighs and waits.

But he has nothing but praise for the people he sees working to find Saeed.

He says, “They are all going through hard times. You can see that they are suffering in the dirt and filth.”

“We’re all the same inside. No matter what, we all feel it.”

Mustafa lives in Marrakesh, about 75 kilometers north of the village, and says he can’t go home until he finds his son.

But he draws on his Muslim faith to explain this tragedy.

“God wants it to be this way and it’s His decision,” he says.

A man stands in the middle of a street looking around surrounded by damaged buildings.

Before the earthquake Tlat N’Yaqoub was home to about 7,000 people.,ABC News: Heather Jones,

Almost every home and business in Talat N’Yaqoub has been destroyed.

The village, with a population of about 7,000 people, bore the brunt of the earthquake’s intensity, with thousands of people estimated to have died there alone.

The official death toll from yesterday’s earthquake has reached nearly 2,700.

Survivors described how it felt like buildings exploded upwards during the disaster, before falling back down again – such was the force that shook the earth.

Street after street is now covered with the ruins of people’s lives, and rescue teams walk precariously over the top of the debris with sniffer dogs looking for humans.

Two men in uniform standing outside a ruined building, followed by dogs

Authorities are preparing to search for people under the debris in Talat N’Yaqoub.,ABC News: Heather Jones,

As we watch, more remains are pulled from beneath the destruction.

A young boy of just seven years old is left in grief when his uncle’s body is discovered.

The smell of rotting bodies fills the air – a graphic reminder of how many people are still buried here.

For those who survive, they risk becoming victims of another disaster: a humanitarian disaster.

There is no food, water, electricity or sanitation in the village.

There is also very little shelter there.

A large number of people carry a dead body to the hill.

Rescue teams are searching for survivors and human remains in the debris.,ABC News: Heather Jones,

Zeinab Eit Lehsen sits under an olive tree with the rest of her family after their home was destroyed.

Their six-year-old son, Ziyad, died, but their three other children, including a 15-month-old boy, survived.

“I don’t have words to describe it to you, it’s so intense,” she says.

“My son died, and my daughter is injured and hurt.

“My mother-in-law has also been injured and my husband has sustained injuries on his chest.”

A woman surrounded by children is watching.

Zeinab Eit Lehsen (second from left) and her family have nowhere to go.,ABC News: Heather Jones,

Zeinab’s nine-year-old son Ilyas sits next to his mother, his two black eyes in milk, his head bandaged.

Elias described the moment when the earthquake struck.

“The bricks fell on my head and I crawled towards my mother, and then we tried to get out along with my brothers and sister,” he says.

“My father tried to help us get out quickly but he collided with a door and injured his head and chest.

“We managed to get out and it was dark, but my brother got trapped and died.”

The Eat Lehsen family has no place to go.

They sleep on cardboard boxes on top of bare earth, with a few donated blankets at night.

This is all they have left.

“We are waiting to see what’s happening: will they support us, help us, tell us what to do? Because we have nowhere to go,” Zeinab says.

“This is where we were born. And our parents were born here. So we’re waiting.”

Partially destroyed buildings, surrounded by debris.

Talaat N’Yacoub looks unrecognizable after last week’s earthquake.,ABC News: Heather Jones,

Help is difficult to get in villages in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains.

The only dirt road in and out of the town that runs through the peaks has been damaged by landslides.

A two-hour one-way trip to the village has turned into a six-hour mission.

This means that little aid and assistance is reaching the most affected areas.

And it is difficult to imagine how long it will take to rebuild this area.

Emotional recovery will take more time.

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