Moroccan earthquake survivors left to fend for themselves in the Atlas Mountains

Moulay Brahim, Morocco CNN  — 

Moulay Brahim was once a happy place for Sami Sensis. The village is located high in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, and its scenery, the fresh air, the friendly people drew his parents there nearly every summer.

Now they are buried somewhere under the rubble of their hotel on the edge of what remains of the village.

The building partially collapsed after a powerful earthquake struck Moulay Brahim late on Friday night. The epicenter of the 6.8-magnitude earthquake was not far from the village that lies about two hours southwest of Marrakech.

The quake, the strongest to hit Morocco in more than 120 years, killed more than 2,000 people. Many others remain missing.

Local officials told CNN that 25 people were killed in the village. Three people – including Sensis’ mother and father – were still missing as of Sunday afternoon.

Sensis, 39, was getting increasingly desperate and frustrated. “I cannot even bury them. I can’t see them, I don’t know where they are,” he said as his voice cracked with emotion and anger.

His phone has not stopped ringing for two days. Relatives and friends keep calling, constantly asking him for updates. But he doesn’t have any news to share. The site has become too unstable and dangerous and the local fire brigade has ordered residents out of the area, halting the search for those missing.

“Nothing is happening. We are just waiting. They decided to do nothing. They are just telling us to be patient, making promises,” Sensis said, adding that he also tried to go inside the collapsed building to search for his parents.

The hotel’s owner, Idsaleh Mahjoub, confirmed to CNN that Sensis’ parents were at the hotel when the quake hit. Their names were on his register, and he recognized them in photos Sensis showed him.

Locals have managed to pull six people out of the hotel’s rubble, all of them alive, Mahjoub said.

“But the others, we were not able to do anything,” he said. “We went to inform the governor about those that were trapped and every time he tells us that they will come and take them out. Today they came to scout the area, and then left to grab their equipment.”

Morocco’s Interior Ministry said Sunday that after assessing the needs, it decided to respond to offers of help from several foreign governments, including “Spain, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, which suggested mobilizing a group of search and rescue teams.”