Dozens of people were racing against the clock in the early hours of Friday to try to save a five-year-old child who fell into a deep well in a village in northern Morocco.
The little boy, named Rayan, is stuck inside a dry well that is 32 meters (100 ft) deep and only 45 centimeters (18 inches) in diameter, preventing rescuers from going down themselves.
The accident took place in Ighrane in the northern region of Chefchaouen on Tuesday at around 2pm. By 9.30pm on Thursday, digging machines had excavated a tunnel running parallel to the first and were only five meters (16 ft) away from the little boy, whom early video footage showed to be alive. Rescuers have been able to deliver water, food and oxygen to him.
But the rocky terrain was hampering further progress, according to the news site Le360. Bulldozers were still working well into the night on Thursday, the news agency AFP reported.
The child’s father told Le360 on Wednesday that he is the owner of the well, which he was repairing at the time of the accident. Rayan was by his side and fell in without the father noticing. “Everyone has done the utmost to get him out alive so I can hold him in my arms,” he told the news outlet. “But I won’t hide the fact that both his mother and I are devastated and very nervous.”
The spokesman for the Moroccan government, Mustafa Baitas, said on Thursday that authorities are providing a “strong” response to save the child, and that the executive is prepared to ask for outside help if necessary but that Morocco has the necessary expertise and equipment to conduct the rescue. A medical team and a helicopter are on standby in the area.
Baitas said authorities had considered widening the well in order to send rescuers down, but this could have caused rocks to fall down and hit the child.
The case is reminiscent of a similar accident in southern Spain, where a little boy named Julen Roselló fell down a long borehole in January 2019 and rescuers dug a parallel tunnel, blasting their way through hard rock in a desperate effort to reach him in time.