Monday, September 25

Death of Moroccan boy in well draws sympathy from around world | Morocco

Tributes have been paid to Rayan Oram, the five-year-old Moroccan boy whose body was recovered from a well on Saturday, and whose plight had moved his country and the world.

News of Rayan’s death after a massive four-day rescue operation pitched Morocco into deep grief and prompted condolences and expressions of gratitude to the search teams.

His parents, Khaled Oram and Wassima Khersheesh, thanked all those who had worked tirelessly to try to save their sons.

“This is God’s will,” his mother told Al Oula TV. “I thank all for their efforts to help.”

Morocco’s prime minister, Aziz Akhannouch, offered the government’s condolences, adding: “I learned with great sadness and sorrow the news of the death, after days of suffering, and the hope of finding him alive.”

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said: “I want to say to the family of little Rayan and to the Moroccan people that we share your pain.”

Pope Francis said he had been moved by the solidarity and kindness shown during the rescue effort.

“We’re used to seeing, reading in the media, so many ugly things, ugly news, accidents, killings,” the pontiff said on Sunday. But he added it had been “beautiful” to see how Moroccans had clung to one another as they tried to save Rayan.

AC Milan’s Algerian midfielder Ismaël Bennacer posted a tribute accompanied by a picture of a little boy rising into the sky while clutching a heart-shaped balloon in the colors of the Moroccan flag.

“Rayan’s courage will stay in our memories and continue to inspire us,” the footballer wrote on Twitter. “And so too will the devotion of the Moroccan people and of the rescuers. All my thoughts are with his family and loved ones. May Allah grant this little warrior the highest degree of paradise.”

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The Moroccan-American novelist Laila Lalami wrote: “We all of us had been holding out hope that little Rayan would make it. This is all so tragic.”

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI spoke directly to Rayan’s parents to express his condolences.

Rayan fell down a well 32 meters (100ft) deep in his home village of Ighrane on Tuesday afternoon. As the shaft was just 45cm (18in) across – and widening it considered too risky – rescuers instead used large diggers to carve a slope in the hope of reaching the boy from the side.

Rescuers at the site of the well.
Rescuers at the site of the well. Photo: Reuters

Details of the complex and dangerous mission made international headlines and led to an outpouring of sympathy online, with the Arabic version of the hashtag #SaveRayan going viral.

In the final stages, with teams estimated to be just 3 meters away from Rayan, authorities decided to dig by hand to avoid a landslide of the rocky, sandy earth. Large round concrete pipes were brought in to make a safer, horizontal tunnel for the final stretch.

A camera lowered down the well showed Rayan lying on his side, and rescuers had sent food, water and oxygen down the shaft.

By Saturday morning, the head of the rescue committee, Abdelhadi Temrani, said: “It is not possible to determine the child’s condition at all at this time. But we hope to God that the child is alive.”

Those hopes were dashed on Saturday night when Rayan’s body was recovered, wrapped in a yellow blanket, and taken away.

A family watches a televised statement as Rayan's death was announced.
A family watches a televised statement as Rayan’s death was announced. Photograph: Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP

The circumstances of the accident are unclear but Rayan is understood to have been playing nearby when he fell. The family realized he was missing when they heard muffled crying, a male relative told Reuters. They lowered a phone with its light and camera to help locate him.

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“He was crying ‘lift me up’,” the relative said. But the well narrowed as it descended, preventing rescuers from descending.

The village of about 500 people is dotted with deep wells, many used for irrigating the cannabis crop that is the main source of income for many in the poor, remote and arid region of Morocco’s Rif mountains. Most of the wells have protective covers.

Rayan’s death comes three years after that of a two-year-old boy whose fall down a 100-meter borehole in southern Spain sparked a major rescue operation that transfixed the country.

Julen Rosseló was having lunch with his family in the countryside on 13 January 2019 when he fell down the 25cm-wide hole in Totalán, near Málaga.

A parallel shaft and a small horizontal tunnel were dug to reach the toddler, but the process was slowed by layers of hard rock that had to be cleared with controlled explosions. Julen’s body was recovered 13 days later.

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