Authors: MOSAAB ELSHAMY and TARIK EL-BARAKA, Associated Press
IGRAN, Morocco — A 5-year-old boy who was trapped in a deep well in Morocco for four days has died, the royal palace said on Saturday.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI offered his condolences to the boy’s parents in a statement released by the palace.
The boy, named Ryan, was pulled out by rescuers on Saturday evening after a lengthy operation that attracted the attention of the whole world.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw the boy wrapped in a yellow blanket after he exited a tunnel dug specifically for rescue.
His parents, Khaled Orama and Wassima Hershish, were taken to the ambulance before the boy arrived. His plight attracted the attention of the whole world.
The palace said in a statement that the king was closely monitoring the local authorities’ desperate rescue efforts, “instructing officials to use all means necessary to dig the boy out of the well and return him to his living parents.” The King applauded the rescuers for their tireless work and the community for supporting Ryan’s family.
Hundreds of villagers and others gathered to watch the rescue operation.
Online messages of support and care for the boy poured in from around the world as the rescue effort dragged on for four days.
Rescuers used a rope to supply the boy with oxygen and water, as well as a camera to keep an eye on him. By Saturday morning, the head of the rescue committee, Abdelhadi Temrani, said: “At present, it is generally impossible to determine the condition of the child. But we hope in God that the child is alive.”
On Tuesday evening, Ryan fell into a 32-meter well located outside his home in the village of Ygran in the mountainous northern province of Chefchaouen in Morocco.
For three days, search teams dug a parallel ditch with bulldozers. Then on Friday they started digging a horizontal tunnel to get to the stranded boy. Morocco’s MAP news agency reported that experts in topographic engineering were called in to help.
Temrani, in an interview with local television 2M, said on Saturday that rescuers had only two meters (yards) left to dig to reach the hole the boy was stuck in.
“The diggers encountered hard rock along the way and were therefore very careful to avoid landslides or cracks,” he said. “It took about five hours to get rid of the stone, because the digging was slow and careful not to create cracks in the hole below, which could threaten the life of the child and the rescuers.”
The work was especially difficult because of the fear that the earth around the well might collapse on the boy.
The village of about 500 people is dotted with deep wells, many of which are used to irrigate the cannabis crop, which is the main source of income for many in Morocco’s poor, remote and arid region of the Rif Mountains. Most wells have protective covers.
The exact circumstances of how the boy fell into the well are unclear.
Across the country, Moroccans took to social media to express hope for the boy’s survival, using the hashtag #SaveRayan, which brought the rescue effort to worldwide attention.
El Baraka reports from Rabat, Morocco.