Spanish diggers struggle to reach toddler who fell in well

MADRID (AFP) – Diggers trying to reach a two-year-old boy who fell into a deep well in southern Spain a week ago saw their progress slowed by harder rock last Sunday, though experts still held out hope he could still be alive.

There has been no contact with Julen Rosello since he fell down the narrow shaft, some 100 metres deep, on January 13 while playing as his parents prepared a picnic nearby in the town of Totalan near Malaga.

After abandoning an initial plan to reach the boy with an angled tunnel because of repeated collapses and landslides, workers turned to the possibility of drilling a vertical shaft parallel to the well.

When they reach a depth of 60 metres, a team of eight expert miners will be lowered down the shaft to start digging a horizontal tunnel to the location where they believe the toddler is.

But the new effort slowed as diggers hit hard granite and rescuers now expect they will only complete the vertical shaft “at the end of the night” if they are able to keep working at the same pace, engineer Angel Garcia Vidal who is overseeing the operations, told reporters late last Sunday.

Emergency team members look for a boy who fell into the 100-metre-deep waterhole in a mountainous area near the town of Totalan in Malaga, Spain on January 13. – AP

“We continue to work intensely, nonstop, and we hope to reach our desired goal very soon,” he added.

Rescuers used probes to explore the bottom of the well that came back with strands of hair matching the child’s DNA, as well as a bag of sweets that he was carrying when he went missing, providing confirmation that he is down the hole.

“Professionally we believe in what we are doing, we believe in the possibility of finding him alive and we are all fighting to find him alive. That is our hope and our goal,” said the head of the civil protection service in the southern province of Malaga, Rafael Galvez.

Experts told Spanish media that there are slim chances that Julen could still be alive, explaining that cold weather slows a body’s metabolism, so it needs less energy and can survive with abnormally low breathing and blood flow.