© Reuters. People gather as rescuers work to reach a five-year-old boy trapped in a well in the northern city of Chefchaouen, Morocco, February 5, 2022. REUTERS / Thami Nouas
By Ahmed Eljechtimi
RABAT (Reuters) – A boy trapped in a well in northern Morocco died five days before rescuers managed to reach him late Saturday and retrieve his body, two government officials said.
Footage posted on social media shows the scene after his body was found, and hundreds of distraught rescuers and bystanders gathered at the site sing to God and shine the flashlights of their phones in the air.
Five-year-old Rayan Awram fell into a well in his village of Ighran in the hills near Chefchaouen on Tuesday, sparking a huge rescue effort that has engulfed the country.
Rescuers finally reached it late Saturday after removing most of the neighboring hill and gently tunneling the horizontal passage into the well.
King Muhammad sent his condolences to his parents, state media reported.
The well was only 45 cm (18 inches) wide at the top and narrowed as it fell 32 meters (100 feet) to the bottom, where Rayan was trapped, making it impossible for rescuers to descend directly.
A male cousin of the boy said Friday that the family first realized he had disappeared when they heard muffled cries and hung up a phone with a light on and a camera to locate him.
He cried ‘pick me up’, a cousin said.
The hilly area around Chefchaouen is very cold in winter and rescuers have tried to keep the boy alive by dropping food, water and oxygen through a pipe.
Rescuers worked day and night cutting a massive trench through the slope and then tunneling horizontally toward Ryan, with a constant risk of landslides.
In the final hours of the rescue, workers had to move with extreme caution as they tried to dig the ground and rocks to where Rayan lay.
They finally managed to access the well late Saturday and took his body to an ambulance waiting.
Crowds gathered at the scene to watch the rescue operation as hundreds of workers tried to save the child. Across the country, Moroccans watched the saga on television in homes and cafes.
“I am so sad to learn that Rayan has died. My sincere condolences to the parents,” said Abderrahim Sabihi, a Rabat resident who followed the rescue operation from a cafe.
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