BAB BERRED, MOROCCO (AFP) – Moroccan rescuers closed in yesterday on a five-year-old boy trapped in a deep well, entering the delicate final stage of a days-long operation hoping to pull him out alive.
The drama, now in its fourth day, has held residents of the North African kingdom spellbound. It has even drawn sympathy in neighbouring Algeria, a regional rival whose political ties with Morocco are strained.
Rescuers were able to send the child oxygen and water via pipes, but they still don’t know whether he is alive.
At least five earth-movers have excavated red soil surrounding the well, making the landscape surrounding it resemble a construction site, against a backdrop of green hills in the rural northern province of Chefchaouen.
AFP saw the machines working under floodlights throughout the night into yesterday, to clear the area around the 32-metre deep well in the village near Bab Berred.
Local authorities said the heavy equipment had excavated down 28 metres and preparations were being made to dig a horizontal breach in the direction of the well to reach Rayan.
But they said there is a risk of a landslide. The operation is complex because of the nature of the soil, some of which is sandy while other parts are rocky.
“The child’s rescue is approaching,” government spokesman Mustapha Baitas said on Thursday. “Our hearts are with the family, and we are praying that he will be back with them as soon as possible.”
Rayan accidentally fell into the narrow, dried-out well near his family’s home on Tuesday.
Hundreds of thousands of Moroccans have been glued to live broadcasts showing the effort to free him, and the Arabic hashtag #SaveRayan was trending again yesterday.
A medical team was dispatched to the scene to carry out initial checks and potential resuscitation once the boy is rescued, and a police helicopter is on standby to evacuate him to a nearby hospital.
Rayan’s father told Le360 news website he had been repairing the well when the boy fell into it.