Metres to go in effort to free Moroccan boy from well

The sun rises in Morocco during the nerve-wracking final stages of a massive rescue operation to free Rayan, a five-year-old boy trapped down a well. The complex and risky earth-moving operation has gripped residents of the North African kingdom and even sparked sympathy in neighbouring Algeria, a regional rival. Rayan fell some 32 metres (100 feet) down the empty shaft in the remote village of Ighrane in Chefchaouen province on Tuesday afternoon.

Moroccan rescuers were only metres away Saturday in their increasingly urgent but carefully-moving effort to rescue Rayan, a five-year-old boy trapped underground whom they hope to find alive.

For five days the complex and risky earth-moving operation has gripped residents of the North African kingdom and beyond, even sparking sympathy in neighbouring Algeria, a regional rival.

But it is “impossible to say with certainty that he is alive,” Tamrani told AFP.

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Rescuers tried to get oxygen and water down to the child but it was not clear whether he was able to use the vital supplies, AFP reporters said.

Rescue crews, using bulldozers and front-end loaders, excavated the surrounding red earth down to the level where the boy is trapped and are now digging horizontally towards him, manually.

“We have about two metres left to dig out the horizontal tunnel, and hope we don’t face any more rocks,” Tamrani said.

Earlier in the darkness, crews had moved a heavy pipe into position in the area. One rescuer lugged what appeared to be a jackhammer.

Thousands of people gathered around the site, surrounded by olive trees, where AFP reporters said the tension was palpable. Some applauded to encourage the rescuers.

The shaft, just 45 centimetres (18 inches) across, was too narrow to reach Rayan, and widening it was deemed too risky — so earth-movers dug a wide slope into the hill to reach him from the side.

Red-helmeted Civil Defence personnel have at times been suspended by rope, as if on a cliff face.

– ‘Moving a mountain’ –

He said earlier in the week that he had been repairing the well when the boy fell in.

“Rescuers are literally in the process of moving a mountain to save little #Rayan. I hope that their efforts will not be in vain and that those who prayed for him will see their prayers answered,” one internet user wrote.

Police reinforcements have been sent and metal barricades erected in an effort to prevent the swarm of onlookers from impeding rescuers.

The accident echoes a tragedy in Spain in early 2019 when a two-year-old child died after falling into an abandoned well 25 centimetres wide and more than 70 metres deep.


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