CAIRO, Egypt — On Saturday, rescuers working day and night tunneled toward a 5-year-old child, his face disturbed and bruised, who had been stranded for over four days in a 100-foot-deep well in a tranquil Moroccan village.
Rescuers told local news outlets that they were within 10 feet of him by early Saturday.
The attempt to save Rayan, the youngster who plunged to his death at the bottom of a well in northern Morocco, was in its final, critical stages, while Moroccans and people across North Africa watched the rescue on live streams.
Since Tuesday afternoon, Rayan has been stuck in a well near his house in the little village of Ighrane, around 125 miles from Chefchaouen. Bulldozers were brought in to construct a parallel shaft through which rescuers could tunnel to the youngster, but they were afraid that either part of the well or the parallel shaft might collapse before they could get there.
Rescuers looked to have run against hard rocky impediments as they continued to adjust the route and carefully dig across, according to state-run television, which was broadcasting a Livestream of the operation.
The drilling process was in its «final phases,» according to the state-run news outlet Maghreb Arabe Presse. The effort was temporarily halted around the time of sunset on Friday, but rescuers resumed after it was determined that it was safe to do so.
Two rescuers were painstakingly digging the remaining feet that separated them from Rayan, according to Le360, a local publication. A chopper was dispatched to carry the youngster to a hospital in a major city.
Thousands of onlookers watched as rescue professionals fought to save the youngster, reciting prayers and shouting encouragements to the squad. Some people sat or slept under trees, hoping to witness the issue’s resolution. Rayan’s family prepared and served couscous, a classic Moroccan dish, to the crowd. Bread and dates were distributed by others.
One of the rescuers, Abdelhadi Temrani, described the operation as «very sensitive.»
On Friday, he stated, «This stage is the most essential and most challenging.» «You can’t risk sacrificing a crew if there’s a potential of collapse,» he added, explaining that the rescuers couldn’t send anyone down to begin digging over until the parallel shaft was secured.
According to Maghreb Arabe Presse, rescue crews used rope to lower an oxygen tube and water to the youngster on Thursday, as well as a camera to monitor him.
Short recordings of the youngster, who appeared to be barely moving, were circulated, and it appeared that he was still breathing.
Five bulldozers and dozens of rescues, including a team of topographers, were reported by local media. According to reports, the initiative had enlisted the help of a local climbing and caving group.
Rayan’s father explained to Le360 that he was in the process of repairing the well that he owns when his kid fell in. According to local press accounts, he was playing when he fell.
«Everyone is doing everything they can to make sure he survives and we can hold him in our arms at the end of the day,» his father said.
The tiny village of Ighrane was swarmed with reporters, several of whom were reporting live on television.
The Arabic hashtag #SaveRayan became a worldwide rallying cry on Twitter after images of bulldozers digging under floodlights while thousands of Moroccans waited in suspense.
The hashtag was trending in Morocco and Algeria, as well as in France, where a sizable Moroccan diaspora exists.
The heavy equipment became silent on Friday evening after days of desperate efforts to extricate a 5-year-old kid from a well in Morocco. The rescuers had arrived at a key point: they were near enough to Rayan to start excavating by hand.
«All mechanical gear motors have stopped,» according to Le360, a local publication. «The place is deafeningly quiet.»
According to the video being streamed live from the scene, when the personnel got closer, updates on the rescue were screamed and passed among the audience who had gathered to observe.
Rescuers had been concerned for days, ever since the youngster fell more than 100 feet into the hole, that their efforts could result in a collapse or a landslide.
According to the officials, the hole narrows as it descends deeper, trapping the child in a small, constricted place with a diameter of fewer than 20 inches.
Rescue crews have created a 13-foot-wide tunnel 100 feet down to connect the boy to the rescuers, according to Moroccan state television network 2M on Friday evening. To get to him, they began excavating a horizontal trench.
As bulldozers were transported to the site and employees began excavating a parallel tunnel, oxygen was delivered to Rayan via tubes.
«This oxygen, which was continuously pumped into the hole, kept the small one from running out of breath,» according to Le360.
According to local authorities, the rescue attempts were hindered further by the nature of the soil in the area, which is a mix of unstable sand and rock.
Digging has to be halted multiple times during the last four days to avert a landslide.
Engineers and other technicians joined the work, and the parallel tunnel was completed overnight, allowing them to start excavating across to the youngster.
Each scoop of earth had to be scraped out with extra care as they got closer.
The heartbreaking photograph of a young child named Rayan trapped in a 100-foot well in Morocco, his distraught face wounded, has touched people all around the world and sparked widespread attention in North Africa on social media.
People in the area were glued to the rescue on television and online as rescuers attempted to reach the kid, who has been in the well since Tuesday afternoon, anxious for some good news at a time when many have been battered by Covid epidemic melancholy.
Wassima Kharchich, his mother, told Moroccan television network 2M, «I pray and beg God that he gets out of that well alive and safe.» «Please, God, take away my and his anguish in that dusty hole.»
Under the hashtag #SaveRayan, the rescue effort has gone global, eliciting condolences and offers of support and sympathy. The operation’s live transmissions drew tens of thousands of viewers.
Online, there were assessments of the trenches made to try to save him, deciphering how soil erosion may affect the rescue, and, most importantly, an outpouring of sorrow and prayers for Rayan and his family.
Hasna Tazi, a 28-year-old fashion marketing manager in Casablanca, said, «I just hope he’s still alive.» For the past four days, Ms. Tazi has been riveted to her phone and television, closely watching the rescue effort. She explained, «I basically placed myself in his parents’ position.» «He could be the child of anyone.»
Boutana Azzabi Ezzaouia, a Dutch-Moroccan digital producer in the Netherlands, remarked on Twitter, «I suppose every one of us, every Moroccan around the world, is awake, watching, and praying for the 5-year-old Rayan to be rescued and reunited with his parents.»
«My mother doesn’t use social media, but she continues asking me if they saved Rayan,» wrote Soukaina on Twitter. «She says a prayer for the poor boy!» It’s a mother’s heart, and she knows just how his mother is feeling! «There are no words to express how his parents are feeling.»