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

Heavy machinery attempting to rescue to the boy from the well

Efforts to save a child in Morocco who fell into a water well near the city of Chefchaouen is nearing its end.

The child, who local media have identified as a five-year-old boy named Rayan, was reportedly playing near the well in the northern town of Tamrout, 100km (62 miles) from Chefchaouen.

Rayan is believed to have fallen about 32m (104ft) through a narrow opening. Rescue operations, led by Morocco’s Civil Protection Directorate, have been ongoing since Tuesday evening.

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 bring 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 have gathered at the scene.

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 reporters that the narrowness of the well has 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.”

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.

By Thursday evening, rescuers reported they had dug down some 24 metres, but that around six metres still remained to reach the child.

Mr El Quahabi told reporters 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.

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