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Morocco to bury ‘little Rayan’ who died trapped in well

Morocco prepared Monday to bury “little Rayan”, the five-year-old boy who died trapped in a well.

Moroccan emergency services teams carry the body of five-year-old Rayan into an ambulance after pulling him from a well shaft
Moroccan emergency services teams carry the body of five-year-old Rayan into an ambulance after pulling him from a well shaft - Copyright AFP Fadel SENNA
Moroccan emergency services teams carry the body of five-year-old Rayan into an ambulance after pulling him from a well shaft - Copyright AFP Fadel SENNA
Hicham Rafih and Fadel Senna, with Ismail Bellaouali in Rabat

Morocco prepared Monday to bury “little Rayan”, the five-year-old boy who died trapped in a well despite a days-long rescue operation that gripped the world.

The child’s fate drew global attention after he fell down a narrow, 32-metre (100-foot) dry well last Tuesday, and sparked an outpouring of sympathy online.

His funeral is to be held in his home village of Ighrane, in the impoverished Rif mountains of northern Morocco where the tragedy took place, a local official and a relative told AFP.

On Saturday night, crowds had cheered in joy when rescue workers reached Rayan after a round-the-clock digging operation, clearing away the final handfuls of dirt.

But hope turned to grief as news spread that the rescue was too late, and Rayan was dead.

“The silence is terrible this morning in the village,” a relative said.

The news was announced by the royal cabinet of the North African nation, after King Mohammed VI called the parents with his condolences.

“We thank his majesty the king, the authorities and all those who have helped us,” Rayan’s father Khaled Aourram said on Saturday evening. “Praise God, have mercy on the dead.”

Rayan’s body was taken to a military hospital in Rabat, according to a cousin, although no report has been given of any autopsy.

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

Pope Francis, while mourning the boy’s loss, praised the “beautiful” sight of “how all the people gathered together” to try to save a child.

– Nation in shock –

Aourram said he had been repairing the well when the boy fell in, close to the family home.

The shaft, just 45 centimetres (18 inches) across, was too narrow for Rayan to be reached directly, and widening it was deemed too risky — so earth movers dug a wide slope into the hill.

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

Vast crowds came to offer their support, singing and praying to encourage the rescuers who worked around the clock.

Moroccans were in shock after the news of the boy’s death.

Mourad Fazoui in the capital Rabat called it a disaster. “May his soul rest in peace and may God open the gates of heaven to him,” the salesman said.

Social media users from regional rival Algeria to France and the United States flooded the internet with messages of support and grief, along with praise for the rescue workers.

“He has brought people together around him,” a Twitter user said.

But some saw the situation differently, with one internet user deploring a “dystopic world” where “Arab nations are moved by the rescue of a child in Morocco” while others die due to famine or conflict in Yemen and Syria.

The boy’s ordeal echoed a tragedy in Spain in early 2019 when a two-year-old child died after falling into an abandoned well more than 70 metres deep.

Julen Rosello’s body was recovered after a search and rescue operation that lasted 13 days.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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