The operation to rescue five-year-old Rayan Oram after he fell into a deep well shaft united Moroccans for several days in their hopes and prayers that he would be found alive.
His father had been repairing the well in the small northern town of Tamorot in the Rif mountains when Rayan got trapped on Tuesday afternoon. The hashtag #SaveRayan trended in many countries, even in Morocco’s traditional rival, Algeria.
Moroccan celebrity TV host Rachid Allali even cancelled his show out of solidarity with Rayan. Thousands gathered at the scene to encourage rescuers, many of whom worked round the clock using floodlights during the night.
The operation was made difficult because of a mixture of rocky and sandy soils in the area, which meant any interference with the well risked triggering a landslide.
Emergency crews, including firefighters, helped excavate a huge hole in the side of the hill before digging a separate horizontal tunnel to the well shaft in an attempt to safely access Rayan, who was trapped after plunging 32m (104ft) through the well’s narrow opening.
Among the rescuers, one man singled out for special praise was Ba (Uncle) Ali Sahrawi, who volunteered to use his experience to help dig Rayan out using just a pick-axe when it became too dangerous to use heavy machinery.
Emergency crews finally reached Rayan on Saturday evening, four days after he became trapped. The ambulance carrying him was initially greeted with cheers from the crowds before the tragic news of the five-year-old’s death was confirmed in a statement from the palace of King Mohammed VI. He later phoned Rayan’s parents to offer his condolences.
Rescue teams joined hands as Rayan’s parents left the scene while his body was taken away.
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