A 5-year-old Moroccan boy trapped in a dry, 104-foot well for nearly five days was pulled out Saturday after a painstaking rescue effort, but did not survive the ordeal.
Thunderous cheers, applause and prayers erupted from hundreds of onlookers as medics carried the boy, named Rayan, on a red stretcher to a waiting ambulance, which rushed him to a hospital. His parents were waiting nearby.
Shortly after the dramatic extraction, state media said that the child had died.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI called to offer the parents, Khaled Oram and Wassima Kharchich, condolences.
News of Rayan’s death was heartbreaking, not only for those at the scene, but the millions around the world, who were gripped by the drama of the rescue operation, which could be seen on livestreams from the small northern Morocco village of Ighran.
Moroccan soldiers and police wearing bright yellow vests had formed a cordon from the tunnel entrance to allow the ambulance to get through the crowd of onlookers who had gathered into the night, waiting for Rayan’s rescue.
It was unclear when Rayan died. Images taken with a camera sent down the shaft earlier in the week showed Rayan breathing heavily, with blood on his face. Rescue workers also lowered food and water to the child during the days it took to dig him out, but it was not known if he was able to eat or drink while he was underground.
The rescue crews needed days of round-the-clock effort to reach the boy, who fell down the shaft Tuesday while his father was working on the well. Attempts to retrieve him the way he fell in were unsuccessful because the shaft, roughly 18 inches wide at ground level, narrowed to about 8 inches about 75 feet down, and took a turn near the bottom.
Bulldozers were brought in to dig next to the well, creating a huge trench parallel to the shaft. Workers then had to dig a horizontal tunnel through the rocky, sandy soil to connect the shaft where the child was stuck and extract him.
The final hours of the delicate operation required the workers to dig very slowly and by hand to avoid a collapse in the rocky, sandy and unstable soil. One engineer told a local television channel that they were digging just 20 centimeters, or about 7 inches, per hour.