Inch by inch. Rescuers are advancing very slowly on Saturday evening in the tunnel leading to the pocket where little Rayan is, who has fallen to the bottom of a well in a village, a tragedy that has kept the kingdom in suspense for more than five days.
There are probably several hours of drilling left if we are to believe an engineer, interviewed by the public channel 2M.
“Eighty centimeters separate us from Rayan, the drillers are working meticulously to avoid any error,” explained Mounir Al Jazouli, referring to a progression of 20 cm per hour.
The five-year-old boy accidentally fell into the dry, narrow and difficult to access well dug near the family residence in the village of Ighrane, in the province of Chefchaouen, in the north of the kingdom, on Tuesday.
Entering a horizontal breach on Saturday afternoon, the rescuers are accompanied by a medical team but it was not possible to know immediately when they will come out, according to AFP journalists on the spot.
The operation is progressing manually “with great caution to avoid vibrations which can cause landslides”, local authorities told AFP.
At the entrance to the tunnel, a group of firefighters stands ready, while others have brought in equipment, including medical equipment.
An ambulance, with the child’s parents, is parked near the scene of the accident. A medical helicopter is also on standby.
On images sent by an inspection camera, the child “appeared lying on his side, from behind” but it is “impossible to say that he is alive with certainty”, explained Saturday morning to AFP a chief lifeguard, Abdelhadi Tamrani.
The manager, however, kept “very high hopes” of extracting him alive from the hole.
Rescuers struggled to get oxygen and water through tubes and bottles down to Rayan, unsure if he could use them.
The main challenge is to avoid landslides due to the nature of the ground, some layers being rocky and others very sandy.
– “Heroes” –
In front of the tunnel, loud applause regularly greets the drillers, including the volunteer Ali Sahraoui who dug with his hands. This fifty-year-old has become a “hero” on social networks.
Thousands of sympathizers have come in recent days as a sign of solidarity and camped on the spot, in this mountainous area of the Rif, at nearly 700 meters above sea level.
Metal barriers have been set up since Friday to contain the crowd, also framed by a large auxiliary force device.
As the outcome approaches, the curious chant in chorus “Allah Akbar” (God is the greatest) or sing religious songs.
“We stand in solidarity with this child, beloved in Morocco and around the world, we hope, by the will of God, that he will come out,” Hafid El Azzouz, a resident of the region, told AFP.
“I remain hopeful that my child will come out of this well alive,” Rayan’s father said Friday evening on public television 2M, thanking “all the people mobilized and those who support us in Morocco and elsewhere.”
– #saverayan –
Rayan’s fate has aroused a lot of sympathy on social networks around the world, from the Maghreb to Iraq, Yemen, Canada or the United States, in all languages.
“Millions of people around the world are holding their breath in the race against time to save Rayan,” one user tweeted.
Another tips his hat to the rescuers who have been fighting for a hundred hours to save the little one: “They are the heroes of real life. When your own life does not count in front of a noble cause. Keep it up guys, the world counts on you”.
The hashtag #sauvezrayan continued to top the main Twitter trends in Morocco on Saturday.
“I can’t wait for the moment when I read the tweet that will say that #Rayan is in the arms of his parents”, hopes a surfer.
This accident echoes a tragedy that occurred in early 2019 in Andalusia (Spain), where two-year-old Julen died after falling into a well 25 centimeters in diameter and more than 100 meters deep.
His body was found after 13 days of research on an exceptional scale.