The fate of a five-year-old boy trapped in a 32-metre well for more than 40 hours continues to hold Morocco in suspense as authorities hope for a happy ending.
"The rescue of the child is approaching, Our hearts are with the family and we pray to God that he will be reunited with his loved ones as soon as possible," said Mustapha Baitas, the government spokesman, after the weekly government council.
The boy, Rayan, accidentally fell in the well narrow and hard-to-reach dry well on Tuesday in a village near the town of Bab Berred, in the northern Moroccan province of Chefchaouen.
"In a moment of inattention, the boy fell into the well I was repairing. I couldn't sleep at night," Rayan's father told the media. Rescue workers were able to deliver "water and oxygen through tubes to Rayan," according to sources.
Five excavators deployed to the site began digging a plot of land parallel to the well. By early afternoon, "only 9m remained to be dug in the tunnel that will allow rescuers to reach the boy," according to Le360.
Mobilised for more than 24 hours, the rescue teams were unable to descend directly into the well because "its diameter does not exceed 45 centimetres," Abdelhabi Temrani, head of the rescue operation told the media.
The rescuers also thought of "enlarging the diameter of the well but this was not possible because of the nature of the earth which could lead to a landslide," the government spokesman said.
The only solution was to dig around the well to save the child, whose survival caused a great deal of emotion on social networks, even in neighbouring Algeria. The hashtag #sauvezrayan (in Arabic) was among the top Twitter trends on Thursday.
The local emotion is such that the inhabitants of the region are flocking "in large numbers" to the scene of the tragedy, sometimes hindering the work of the rescue teams. The rescue workers are working in very difficult conditions. We call on the citizens to let them work to save this child," urged Mustapha Baitas.
The authorities have also mobilised a gendarmerie medical helicopter which is standing by to evacuate Rayan to a nearby hospital in case of rescue, state television reported.