Tragic end to rescue of boy trapped in well for five days

A five-year-old boy has died in a well before rescuers were able to reach him.

Rayan Awram, 5, fell into the well at his village of Ighara in the hills near Chefchaouen in northern Morocco on Tuesday, triggering a huge rescue effort that engrossed the country and made headlines around the world.

Rescuers finally managed to retrieve his body late on Saturday, two government officials said, after removing much of the adjacent hillside and delicately tunnelling a horizontal passage into the well.

King Mohammed sent condolences to his parents, a statement carried by state media reported.

Rayan Awram, 5, is pictured.
Rayan Awram, 5, died after he was pulled from a well in Northern Morocco. Source: Garowe Online

The well was only 45 cm wide at the top and tapered as it dropped 32 meters to the bottom, where Rayan was trapped, making it impossible for rescuers to descend directly.

A male relative of the boy said on Friday that the family had first realised he was missing when they heard muffled crying and lowered a phone with its light and camera switched on to locate him.

"He was crying 'lift me up'," the relative said.

The hilly region around Chefchaouen is bitterly cold in winter and rescuers attempted to keep the boy alive by lowering food, water and oxygen through a tube.

Rescuers work to reach a five-year old boy trapped in a well in the northern hill town of Chefchaouen, Morocco.
Rescuers work to reach Rayan on Friday. Source: Reuters

Rescuers worked round the clock cutting a massive trench through the hillside, then tunnelling horizontally towards Rayan, with a constant risk of triggering landslides.

In the final hours of the rescue effort, workers had to move with extreme caution as they attempted to dig through earth and rocks to where Rayan lay.

People gather during the rescue operation of 5-year-old child, Rayan Awram, who has been trapped for five days in a well, near Chefchaouen, northern Morocco.
Crews spent days trying to keep Rayan alive and sent food and water down the narrow well. Source: Reuters

They were eventually able to access the well late on Saturday, and carried his body to a waiting ambulance.

Crowds had gathered in a vigil at the scene to watch the rescue effort as hundreds of workers toiled to save the child. Across the country, Moroccans followed the saga on television in homes and cafes.

"I am so sad to learn Rayan has died. Sincere condolences to the parents," Abderrahim Sabihi, a Rabat resident who was following the rescue effort from a cafe, said.

with Reuters

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