Rescue workers are within SIX feet of five-year-old Rayan who is trapped at the bottom of 100ft well in Morocco as the operation to free the boy enters its FIFTH day while his desperate parents watch on
- Moroccans were still waiting anxiously on Saturday morning as rescuers continued their operation overnight
- Rescue crews have dug almost all the way down, but the final six feet to reach the boy are the most risky
- He is said to have fallen down the 100ft well on Tuesday, and has now been trapped there ever since
- Rescuers were unable to reach him down the narrow shaft, so were forced to launch a digging operation
- Pictures and video from the scene showed multiple diggers delving deep into the earth to reach the boy
- The boy has been sent water and oxygen but rescuers are in a race against time to save the young child
Moroccan rescuers worked through the night into Saturday, the fifth day of an increasingly urgent and nerve-wracking effort to rescue Rayan, a five-year-old boy trapped underground in a well.
Rayan fell into a 32-metre (105-feet) shaft outside his home in Ighran village, in the northern province of Chefchaouen, on Tuesday evening – sparking a rescue mission which has captivated the North African nation.
As Rayan’s parents have watched on, rescue crews – using bulldozers and front-end loaders – have dug almost all the way down parallel to the well. But the final six feet are the most difficult because of the risk of landslides.
A massive trench has been dug into the hill next to the well, leaving a gaping hole in the reddish earth. By Saturday morning they were digging horizontally towards the well, and installing PVC tubes to protect against landslides and get the boy out.
A glacial cold has gripped this mountainous and impoverished region of Rif, which is at an elevation of about 700 metres, and the more time that passes, the more fears arise over whether Rayan will be recovered alive.
‘We’re almost there,’ said one of the operation’s leaders, Abdesalam Makoudi, adding ‘tiredness is kicking in, but the whole rescue team is hanging on.’
On Saturday, experts used a rope to send oxygen and water down to the boy as well as a camera to monitor him, but did not provide information about his condition. On Friday, camera footage from the frantic rescue operation showed the boy lying at the bottom of the shaft, and appeared to be breathing.
‘I pray and beg God that he comes out of that well alive and safe,’ his mother Wassima Kharchich told local television station 2M. ‘Please God, ease my pain and his, in that hole of dust. The whole family went out to look for him then we realised that he’d fallen down the well,’ she added, with tears in her eyes.
His father, who said he was repairing the well when the boy fell into it, was pictured nervously watching the rescue mission late on Friday night.
‘I keep up hope that my child will get out of the well alive,’ Rayan’s father told 2M on Friday evening. ‘I thank everyone involved and those supporting us in Morocco and elsewhere.’
Scores of townspeople and others gathered to help and watch the rescue efforts. Nationwide, Moroccans took to social media to offer their hopes for the boy’s survival, using the hashtag #SaveRayan which has brought global attention to the rescue efforts.
Moroccan emergency services teams work on the rescue of five-year-old boy Rayan from a well shaft he fell into on February 1, in the remote village of Ighrane in the rural northern province of Chefchaouen on February 5, 2022
Tractors dig through a mountain as they take part in a rescue mission of a 5-year-old boy who fell into a hole in the northern village of Ighran in Morocco’s Chefchaouen province, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022
The complex, slow and risky earth-moving operation has gripped residents of the North African kingdom and even sparked sympathy in neighbouring Algeria, a regional rival. Pictured: Rescue workers prepare large piping to create a tunnel
Pictured: Camera footage from the frantic rescue operation show the boy lying at the bottom of the shaft with a rope which rescuers used to transport water and oxygen in a desperate attempt to keep him alive
Pictured: Emergency service teams above the large pit watch on as their colleague continue their work. Behind them, a large crowd also watches over as the rescuers inch closer to the boy at the bottom of the well
People watch as Moroccan emergency services teams work on the rescue of five-year-old boy Rayan from a well shaft he fell into on February 1, in the remote village of Ighrane in the rural northern province of Chefchaouen on February 5, 2022
A member of the Moroccan emergency services teams works on the rescue of five-year-old boy Rayan
His father (pictured), who said he was repairing the well when the boy fell into it, was pictured nervously watching the rescue mission late on Friday night
The rescue mission was said to be entering its final stages in the early hours of Saturday morning
A member of the Moroccan emergency services gestures as teams work on the rescue of five-year-old boy Rayan from a well shaft he fell into on February 1, in the remote village of Ighrane in the rural northern province of Chefchaouen on February 5
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.
The operation has made the landscape resemble a construction site. It involves engineers and topographers, and was made more complex by the mix of rocky and sandy soils.
Red-helmeted Civil Defence personnel have at times been suspended by rope, as if on a cliff face.
Working non-stop through the darkness, under powerful floodlights that gave a gloomy air to the scene, they are also digging a horizontal tunnel to reach the pocket where Rayan is, local authorities say.
Search crews first used five bulldozers to dig vertically to a depth of more than 31 metres, according to Morocco’s official MAP news agency.
Then on Friday, they started excavating a horizontal tunnel to reach the trapped boy as experts in topographical engineering were called upon for help.
Work had to be temporarily halted over fears the ground surrounding the well could collapse, but it was later resumed.
Medical staff, including specialists in resuscitation, are on site to attend to the boy once he is pulled out, with a helicopter on standby to transport him to the nearest hospital.
The Moroccan government previously said all efforts are being made to help save the boy.
The drama has sparked an outpouring of sympathy online, with the Arabic hashtag #SaveRayan trending across North Africa.
‘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.
The boy’s fate has attracted crowds of people to the site, where parked cars lined the roads around the village and supporters are camping.
Police reinforcements have been sent, and the swarm of onlookers has sometimes impeded the rescuers’ efforts.
Authorities have called on the public to ‘let the rescuers do their job and save this child.’
But one volunteer said he was there to help. ‘We’ve been here for three days. Rayan is a child of our region. We won’t leave until he’s out of the well,’ he said.
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.
Julen Rosello’s body was recovered after a search and rescue operation that lasted 13 days.
The five-year-old, named as Rayan, fell down the narrow 100-foot (32-metre) deep well on Tuesday evening in his home village of Ighran near Bab Berred in the rural northern province of Chefchaouen, local media said (camera footage shows a rope which was used to deliver supplies)
Rescuers continue to work to free 5-year-old boy trapped in a well in Chefchaouen, Morocco, early on Saturday morning
Horizontal drilling was carried out in attempts to save the five-year-old boy, who has been stuck since midday on Tuesday
Rescue teams have continued efforts to extricate the boy for 76 hours in Chefchaouen, Morocco (pictured Saturday morning)
The rush to save the boy was reaching a critical stage on Friday. Pictured: rescuers continuing to work to free the five-year-old
Moroccan authorities and firefighters work to rescue five-year-old boy Rayan, who is trapped in a deep well for over two days, near Bab Berred in Morocco’s rural northern province of Chefchaoue. Diggers continued working overnight in an attempt to free the boy
Authorities said the mission was nearing its end overnight, with spokespeople reporting around 3am GMT that there was less than 20ft of earth left to dig to reach him. Pictures from the scene overnight showed multiple diggers delving deep into the earth from multiple directions in order to reach the boy, as small crowds gathered on the edge of the ever-growing pit
Moroccan authorities and firefighters work to rescue five-year-old boy Rayan, who is trapped in a deep well for over two days, near Bab Berred in Morocco’s rural northern province of Chefchaouen on February 3, 2022
Pictured: Moroccan authorities and firefighters work to get five-year-old child Rayan out of a well into which he fell on Tuesday, in the region of Chefchaouen near the city of Bab Berred
Rescuers prepare part of a tunnel that will be used to access little Rayan as the search reached a critical stage on Friday night
Residents watch civil defense workers and local authorities attempting to rescue Rayan as search entered third day Friday
Moroccan emergency service climbers work to rescue five-year-old boy Rayan from a well shaft he fell into on February 1
Emergency workers are pictured preparing a tunnel which will be used to access the boy horizontally
Hundreds of villagers gathered on Friday as they anxiously watched the rescue mission unfold
The rescue attempt has captivated the entire North African nation (Pictured: Nervous villagers watch the mission from the sidelines)
The rescue effort has captivated the nation with the hashtag #SaveRayan trending across social media (Pictured: Bystanders watch as Moroccan emergency teams work to rescue the five-year-old boy)
Authorities said the mission was entering its final stages on Friday night – with less than 20ft of earth left to dig to reach him, but there are fears that the well could cave in before the delicate operation to reach him is complete.
Pictures from the scene show multiple diggers delving deep into the earth from multiple directions in order to reach the boy, as small crowds gathered on the edge of the ever-growing pit.
Meanwhile, footage showed rescuers sending cameras down the well’s shaft to monitor the boy’s situation, as the rescuers turned on floodlights to continue their efforts overnight.
On Thursday local media reported that he had taken food and water that was dropped down to him using a rope.
According to reports by Morocco’s official MAP news agency, rescue workers have used five bulldozers to dig a hole parallel to the well and will hope to break through into where the boy is to rescue him.
On Thursday afternoon, news website Le360 said that ‘only nine metres’ (30 foot) remained to be dug ‘that will allow rescuers to reach the boy’.
The MAP news agency said rescuers had been able to send him oxygen and water via pipes.
Pictured: The hole of a well is seen in the foreground where the boy is said to have fallen 100ft, while in the background diggers work from multiple angles in an attempt to rescue him
Residents watch in concern as civil defence and local authorities dig in a hill as they attempt to rescue a 5 year old boy who fell into a hole near the town of Bab Berred near Chefchaouen, Morocco, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022
Pictured: Video showing rescue workers sending cables down into the well in an attempt to reach the boy
Rayan’s father told Le360 he had been repairing the well when the boy fell into it.
Lead rescuer Abdelhabi Temrani told Al Oula television that the diameter of the well was less than 45 centimetres.
Baitas said the nature of the soil meant it was too dangerous to try to widen the hole, meaning major excavations around it were the only solution.
The drama has sparked an outpouring of sympathy online, with the Arabic hashtag #SaveRayan going viral across the North African region, including in neighbouring Algeria.
‘The heart of every Moroccan is with this angel,’ one person wrote on Twitter.
The boy’s fate has also attracted crowds of people to the site of the operation, putting pressure on rescuers operating in ‘difficult conditions’, Baitas said.
‘We call on citizens to let the rescuers do their job and save this child,’ he said.
Authorities have also prepared a helicopter to take the child to hospital once he is extracted, national news channel 2M said.
Pictured: Video captured of a screen showing a camera’s footage as it was lowered down into the well where the boy fell 100ft. The shaft was too narrow for rescuers to go down themselves, so they were forced to dig down the side of the well in an attempt to reach the boy
On Thursday afternoon, news website Le360 said that ‘only nine metres’ (30 foot) remained to be dug ‘that will allow rescuers to reach the boy’
Residents watch in concern as civil defense and local authorities dig in a hill as they attempt to rescue a 5 year old boy who fell into a hole near the town of Bab Berred near Chefchaouen, Morocco, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022
Rescue operations are underway by Moroccan authorities and firefighters to get five-year-old child Reyan out of a well into which he fell some two days earlier, in the region of Chefchaouen near the city of Bab Berred, Morocco, 03 February 2022
The case of ‘Baby Jessica’ who fell down a well in Texas
Rayan’s ordeal in the well has drawn comparisons to the case of Jessica McClure Morales, famously known as Baby Jessica, who fell into a well in her aunt’s backyard in Midland, Texas, in October 1987 at the age of 18 months.
For 58 hours, rescuers worked to successfully free her from the 22-foot (6.7 metre) deep well.
As in Rayan’s case, rescuers decided to dig in parallel to the well where Jessica was lodged because, with an 8-inch (20cm) well opening, it was too narrow for them to simply drop down and reach her. They then drilled another horizontal cross-tunnel to reach her – but not without difficulty.
Rescuers found that the well was surrounded by rock and the local oil drillers and rescuers’ jackhammers could not hit through.
The horizontal tunnel was eventually created through the use of waterjet cutting, an industrial tool which uses an extremely high-pressure of water and an abrasive substance to cut through rock.
Jessica was finally rescued when paramedic Robert O’Donnell inched his way into the tunnel and pulled the toddler free from her awkward position pinned inside the well with one leg above her forehead.
When rescuers finally brought her to the surface, she was covered with dirt and bruises, and her right palm was stuck to her face.
When rescuers finally brought her to the surface, Baby Jessica was covered with dirt and bruises, and her right palm was stuck to her face
Jessica (left after she was pulled out of the shaft) also lost a toe to gangrene because one leg was pinned above her head in the underground shaft
As in Rayan’s case, rescuers decided to dig in parallel to the well where Jessica was lodged because, with an 8-inch (20cm) well opening, it was too narrow for them to simply drop down and reach her. They then drilled another horizontal cross-tunnel to reach her – but not without difficulty
Jessica, now 35, has said in the past that she has little memory of being wedged in the pipe or of the 15 operations that followed her ordeal.
A scar from her hairline to the bridge of her nose is still visible however where her head rubbed against the wall of the well.
Jessica also lost a toe to gangrene because one leg was pinned above her head in the underground shaft.
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