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Trapped boy who died in deep well laid to rest

IGHRAN, MOROCCO (AP) – Morocco on Monday buried five-year-old Rayan, a boy who was trapped in a well for five days while rescuers struggled to reach him. The strenuous operation drew global attention, and mourners sent messages of condolences from around the world.

The funeral for Rayan, who was pulled out on Saturday from a 32-metre deep dry well, was fraught with emotion, and drew relatives and others from near and far who shared their grief. As the ambulance arrived at the gravesite with the boy’s body, religious chants rose up: “Rayan is our beloved.” His father could barely walk as he approached, solemnly observing the coffin being lowered into the grave, then covered with soil and tree branches.

The funeral took place after noontime prayers on Monday in Ighran, a village in Morocco’s mountainous north.

The boy was laid to rest in a plot where other family members are buried at the hilltop Zawiya cemetery, six kilometres away from the village. Scores of mourners from around Morocco flocked to the funeral to pay their respects.

A nine-year-old cousin, Illilas, said he misses Rayan dearly. Asked what he remembers most, Illilas recalled Rayan’s love for playing soccer, and said, “he behaved like a grown man. He always asked us to refer to him as Si Rayan,” or Mr Rayan.

People carry the coffin of five-year-old Rayan during his funeral after his body was retrieved from a deep well in the village of Ighran in Morocco’s Chefchaouen province on February 7. PHOTO: AP

In a sign of how Rayan’s fate had gripped the country, Moroccan King Mohammed VI followed the painstaking rescue efforts closely, and expressed his condolences to the boy’s parents in a statement released by the palace.

Security officers ringed the area of the funeral. Villagers came to visit the parents’ house to pay their condolences, and two large tents were set up in front of the modest house, serving breakfast to visitors.

Workers started filling in the massive hole and tunnel that they had dug to try to rescue the boy.

The exact circumstances of how he fell in the well are unclear. The village of about 500 people is dotted with deep wells, many used for irrigating the cannabis crop that is the main source of income for many in the poor, remote and arid region of Morocco’s Rif Mountains.