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Morocco mourns ‘little Rayan’ after daring well rescue bid fails

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Crowds watch rescue efforts; the well shaft was too narrow for the boy to be reached directly

Morocco was in shock Sunday after emergency crews found a five-year-old boy dead at the bottom of a well in a tragic end to a five-day rescue operation that gripped the nation and the world.

The ordeal of “little Rayan” since he fell down the 32-metre (100-foot) well on Tuesday gained global attention and sparked an outpouring of sympathy online, with the Arabic Twitter hashtag #SaveRayan trending.

The boy’s father said he had been repairing the well when the boy fell in, close to the family home in the village of Ighrane in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco.

Throughout the major digging operation to extricate him from the bottom of the well shaft, authorities had cautioned that they did not know whether he was alive.

The operation made the landscape resemble a construction site, and red-helmeted civil defence personnel had at times been suspended by rope, as if on a cliff face.

Rescue crews, using bulldozers and front-end loaders, had excavated the surrounding red earth down to the level where the boy was trapped, and drill teams began creating a horizontal tunnel to reach him from the side.

But progress slowed to a snail’s pace as the drill teams worked by hand to avoid any vibrations that might bring the brittle soil down on the stricken child, local authorities said.

Volunteer digger Ali Sahraoui cleared the last soil away with his hands, becoming a “hero” on social media.

– Race against time –

“Following the tragic accident which cost the life of the child Rayan Oram, His Majesty King Mohammed VI called the parents of the boy who died after falling down the well,” a statement from the royal court said.

No official information has been released on a possible autopsy.

Many of the watchers prayed, chanting in unison “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest).

The race against time to rescue Rayan was followed live across the world, and as soon as the tragic conclusion was announced, tributes poured in.

“Rayan’s courage will stay in our memories and continue to inspire us,” wrote AC Milan’s Algerian midfielder Ismael Bennacer in a tweet, accompanied by a drawing of a child being lifted into the sky, carried by a heart-shaped balloon marked with the colours of Morocco.

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