Rayan: Morocco well rescue for five-year-old grips nation

American Age Official
a huge hole next to the well

Rescuers have dug a huge hole next to the well (front, centre)

Rescuers are still desperately trying to reach a five-year-old boy who fell into a well near the Moroccan city of Chefchaouen on Tuesday.

The boy, named by local media as Rayan, was reportedly playing near the well in the northern town of Tamorot, 100km (62 miles) from Chefchaouen.

He is believed to have fallen about 32m (104ft) through a narrow opening.

After days of digging there are just three metres to go, but soil erosion could make this step the trickiest.

So as a precaution, a parallel shaft is being dug next to the well to reach Rayan and “protect the rescuers from any collapse, especially [because] the area is know for its fragile, muddy soil,” the state-affiliated 2M website reports.

Rescue operations, led by Morocco’s Civil Protection Directorate, have been ongoing since Tuesday evening, even going through the night.

“The child’s rescue is approaching,” government spokesman Mustapha Baitas said on Thursday evening. “Our hearts are with the family, and we are praying that he will back with them as soon as possible.”

Despite suffering a significant fall, footage from a camera lowered into the well showed that the boy remains alive and conscious, though he appeared to be suffering from some minor head injuries.

Rescue workers have lowered an oxygen mask, food and water into the well and a medical team is also on site, ready to treat the boy. A helicopter has also arrived at the scene to take him to hospital once he has been extracted from the well.

Thousands of people have been watching footage of the rescue on social media, and a large group of onlookers has gathered at the scene.

Algerian football star Riyad Mahrez has also posted a message of support, urging Rayan to “stay strong”.

People gather close tot he rescue site on 3 February.People gather close tot he rescue site on 3 February.

People are waiting anxiously to see Rayan escape safely

Local media reported that provincial authorities are overseeing rescue attempts and that dozens of police, auxiliary forces, Royal Gendarmerie and civil protection officers are now involved in the operation.

Mohamed Yassin El Quahabi, president of the Chefchaouen Association of Caving and Mountain Activities, has been helping with the rescue and told the BBC that the narrowness of the well had hampered rescue efforts.

He added that several attempts by local volunteers and rescue workers to gain access through the well’s opening have already failed.

“The problem of this rescue is that the hole diameter is very, very small, about 25cm (9.8 inches),” Mr El Quahabi said. “At the depth of 28 metres it became smaller so we couldn’t reach him.”

Rescuer looks into the holeRescuer looks into the hole

The rescue efforts continued throughout Thursday night

One of the rescue team explained “the closer we get, the hole gets narrow and hard to pass through – which makes it very hard to save the child through volunteers. That’s why we had to come up with another technique – which is digging.”

Pictures from the scene show five bulldozers digging a large area parallel to the well’s outer shaft to try and work around the narrow structure.

Mr El Quahabi told the BBC that this was now the only way rescue workers will be able to reach Rayan.

But authorities remain concerned that any interference with the well could accidentally hurt the five-year-old by triggering a landslide.

The Arabic hashtag #SaveRayan has been trending across the region, including in neighbouring Algeria, despite the two countries’ poor relations.



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