CAIRO -- Rescuers intensified their efforts on Friday to recover a 5-year-old boy trapped in a 32-meter-deep well in a Northern Moroccan province for almost three days in a relief operation that kept people in the Arab world on tenterhooks.
The boy, identified by Moroccan media as Rayan, reportedly fell through a narrow opening of the well while playing in the village of Ighran in Morocco's Chefchaouen province on Tuesday evening.
A "Save Rayan" Arabic hashtag trended in several Arab countries, including in neighboring Algeria as well as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan as thousands of users took to social media to offer their prayers.
Many likened his story to that of Prophet Yunis, commonly referred to as Jonah in the Bible, who was swallowed up by a whale for three days before the giant fish spat him out.
"Please God, protect him just like you protected Yunis in the belly of the whale," read a caption on a widely shared drawing of a boy playing with toys while being trapped in a deep well.
Several Moroccan media outlets live-streamed the rescue operation to hundreds of thousands of users, leading to an outpouring of sympathy. A CCTV camera lowered into the well to track Rayan showed him alive on Thursday, albeit he appeared to be suffering from head injuries. Oxygen, food and water were also sent down.
"Still can't sleep Till he is free fully I’m literally been depressed all day, I'm lying on my bed and I feel so exhausted imagine this little poor baby what he feels," one Twitter user said.
Moroccan state news agency MAP said parallel digging carried out by bulldozers had reached a depth of 28 meters, reviving hopes that the rescue efforts can bear fruit soon. Horizontal drilling will start once a depth of 32 meters is reached, an informed source told MAP.
However, the source urged caution in fear of possible landslides. Footage showed parts of the soil collapsing during the digging work.
"The excavation work stopped from time to time, in order to take the necessary measures, as the rescue operation has reached a complex stage, and perform the necessary interventions to avoid a ground collapse," the source told MAP.