Image Credit: Supplied

MADRID: Rescuers in southern Spain said Sunday that the frantic effort to reach a two-year-old boy who fell into a narrow, deep borehole seven days ago has again been slowed by difficult terrain.

Provincial authorities said that a drill used to create a vertical shaft parallel to the waterhole has hit a rocky patch.

There has been no contact made with Julen Rosello, who fell into the 110-metre (360-foot) deep shaft a week ago during a family meal in the countryside northeast of Malaga. Julen’s parents already lost their first son, who died when he was 3 from a congenital heart defect.

At just 25 centimetres wide, the borehole is too narrow for adults to enter.

25cm

is borehole’s width, too narrow for adults to enter
A digger removes earth at the site where a boy fell down a well in Totalan in southern Spain Image Credit: AFP

The only sign of the toddler search-and-rescue teams have found so far is hair that matched his DNA inside the hole.

Rescuers hope to find him at a depth of 72 metres, where a soil blockage has hampered efforts to go deeper.

72m

depth at which rescuers hope to find the boy

A specially-made cage has arrived a the site, ready to lower mining rescue experts down the shaft. The experts then hope to dig a horizontal tunnel to the spot where they believe the boy is trapped in the borehole.

Angel Garcia, the leading engineer coordinating the search-and-rescue operation, said on Saturday that the horizontal tunnel would take at least another 20 hours to excavate.

People across Spain have been gripped by the plight of the boy and his family, as the rescue attempt has suffered agonising delays due to the rocky terrain.

20hours

Estimated time needed to excavate horizontal tunnel

Rescuers searching for a toddler trapped for a week in a well in southern Spain began drilling a tunnel on Saturday, in the latest bid to reach the boy as part of a massive operation to find him.

A giant drilling machine was installed Saturday at the site in a bid to make a parallel tunnel and excavation started in the afternoon.

“We hope to achieve this as soon as possible as conditions and that conditions from now will be a bit more favourable,” said engineer Angel Garcia Vidal, who is overseeing the operations.

The job will take about 15 hours if conditions are favourable, he said. But the chances of finding the boy alive now appear slim.

The plan is to dig a sufficiently deep tunnel after which miners will manually carve a passage to the well.

“It is surprising to see so many machines, sophistication, so much energy, manpower and work deployed to make this rescue possible,” said Juanma Moreno, president of the regional government of Andalusia.

He praised a “huge wave of solidarity, involving not just local residents but people from all over Andalusia and Spain who wanted to participate”.

Spanish media, which have been covering the rescue operations round-the-clock, have reported that Julen’s parents lost another child, aged three, in 2017. The child had cardiac problems.

The paramilitary Civil Guard have questioned both parents and an entrepreneur who dug the well, a police spokesman said, adding that this was routine in such investigations.

The well was unmarked at the time of the accident and regional authorities in Andalusia said the necessary permission had not been sought before it was dug.