A major rescue operation is underway to save a toddler trapped 100 feet down a narrow well for four days, in an incident that has gripped India and prompted the country's prime minister Narendra Modi to weigh in.
The boy, Sujith Wilson, who is thought to between 2 and 3 years old, slipped into the abandoned well on Friday while playing in Trichy in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The boy was initially reported to have been 30 feet down the well but on Sunday fell down to 100 feet.
Rescuers have been pumping oxygen into the borehole and have brought in heavy digging equipment an effort to drill a second parallel well to allow them to reach the boy.
But those efforts have taken longer than expected, according to Indian media reports, as the drilling rigs have struggled to break through the rock. A second, more powerful drilling rig was brought in around 2 am on Monday, the newspaper, The Hindu reported but was also making slow progress.
"We did not anticipate that the rock would be so hard. Even the high-powered rigs have struggled to break through the rock. We have just reached about 40 feet and the work has not progressed as planned," Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar told reporters on Monday morning, according to the news channel Times Now. He said they had requested a more advanced drill head. "That will be an ultimate attempt," he said.
Rescuers are trying to reach to 110 feet, after which a team will lower themselves into the hole and try to break through to the boy, Indian newspapers have reported.
His condition is unclear. A day earlier, on Sunday evening, the health minister Vijayabaskar told reporters that a thermal camera deployed by a team from Chennai’s Anna University had detected body temperature from the child, suggesting he was still breathing.
"'Til 5.30 a.m. on Saturday, we heard the child's voice. We heard him crying. Since then, we have heard no sounds. We have not seen any motion. We can't hear breathing sounds. But based on hope, we are continuing to send oxygen through an oxygen cylinder. We can see the child’s hand through the CCTV," the Indian Express quoted Vijayabaskar on Sunday evening.
The rescue effort has attracted intense attention in India. Prayers for the boy's retrieval were reportedly being held in temples across Tamil Nadu and on Monday, prime minister Narendra Modi tweeted that "his prayers are with the young and brave Sujith Wilson." Modi wrote he had called Tamil Nadu's chief minister for an update on the operation and that "every effort" was being made to save the child.
Abandoned and open boreholes are a common hazard in rural India and since the boy's accident, local authorities have pledged to identify all the holes in the state and take steps to cover them.