Moroccan boy dies before rescuers reach him in 32-meter deep well
Rayan Awram, aged five, was trapped for four days after falling into the well in his village of Ighara.
A five-year-old boy in Morocco who was trapped for four days in a deep well, and whose plight captivated residents of the north African kingdom, has died, the royal palace has said.
The boy, Rayan Awram, fell 32 metres (100ft) down the empty shaft in his home village of Ighrane on Tuesday afternoon. Since then, every detail of the complex and dangerous mission to reach him has garnered international headlines and an outpouring of sympathy online, with the Arabic version of the hashtag #SaveRayan going viral.
The shaft, just 45cm (18 inches) across, was too narrow for rescuers to reach Rayan, and widening it was considered too risky. Instead, large diggers were deployed to carve a slope in the hope of reaching the boy from the side.
In the final stages, with teams estimated to be just three metres away from Rayan, authorities decided to dig by hand to avoid a landslide of the rocky, sandy earth. Large round concrete pipes were brought in to make a safer, horizontal tunnel for the final stretch.
But on Saturday, Moroccan King Mohammed VI expressed his condolences to the boy’s parents after his body was pulled out by rescuers on Saturday night and taken away, wrapped in a yellow blanket.
Earlier, his parents, Khaled Oram and Wassima Khersheesh had been escorted to an ambulance nearby.
The palace statement said the king had been closely following the frantic rescue efforts by locals authorities, “instructing officials to use all means necessary to dig the boy out of the well and return him alive to his parents”.
The king hailed the rescuers for their relentless work and the community for landing support to Rayan’s family. Hundreds of villagers and others had gathered to watch the rescue operation.
Online messages of support and concern for the boy poured in from around the world as the rescue efforts dragged on for four days. On Friday, as a crowd gathered, some whistled and others cheered in support as rescuers in helmets moved equipment and rope into the narrow passage for what they hoped would be the final moments of the operation.
Rescuers used a rope to send oxygen and water down to the boy as well as a camera to monitor him. By Saturday morning, the head of the rescue committee, Abdelhadi Temrani, said: “It is not possible to determine the child’s condition at all at this time. But we hope to God that the child is alive.”
Rayan fell into the well located outside his home in the village of Ighran in Morocco’s mountainous northern Chefchaouen province on Tuesday evening.
For three days, search crews used bulldozers to dig a parallel ditch. Then on Friday, they started excavating a horizontal tunnel to reach the trapped boy. Morocco’s MAP news agency said that experts in topographical engineering were called upon for help.
Temrani, speaking to local television 2M, said on Saturday that rescuers had just two metres left to dig to reach the hole where the boy had been trapped.
“The diggers encountered a hard rock on their way, and were therefore very careful to avoid any landslides or cracks,” he said. “It took about five hours to get rid of the rock because the digging was slow and was done in a careful way to avoid creating cracks in the hole from below, which could threaten the life of the child as well as the rescue workers.”
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. Most of the wells have protective covers.
The exact circumstances of how the boy fell in the well are unclear. The boy’s mother told Moroccan media that Rayan had been playing nearby when he disappeared.
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