- The fall of a five-year-old boy sparks a massive rescue operation that took over the country.
- Images posted on social media show hundreds of rescuers and onlookers gathered at the site after the body was retrieved.
- Moroccan King Mohammed offers condolences to parents of deceased boy.
A small boy trapped in a well in northern Morocco for five days died before rescuers could reach him late Saturday and retrieve his body, two government officials said.
Footage posted to social media showed the scene after his body was recovered, with hundreds of distraught rescuers and onlookers gathering at the site to sing god and shine their phones flashlights into the sky.
Rayan Awram, age five, fell into the well on Tuesday in his village of Ighran in the hills near Chefchaouen, triggering a massive rescue operation that took over the country.
Rescuers reached him late Saturday after clearing much of the adjacent mound and delicately digging a horizontal passage into the well.
King Mohammed expressed his condolences to his parents, state media reported.
The pit was only 18 inches (45 cm) wide at the top and tapped as it fell 32 meters (100 feet) to the bottom where Rayan became trapped, making it impossible for rescuers to descend directly.
A male relative of the boy said Friday that the family first realized he was missing when they heard muffled cries and lowered a phone with the light and camera on to locate him.
“He cried ‘lift me up,'” said the relative.
The hilly area around Chefchaouen is bitterly cold in winter and rescuers tried to keep the boy alive by lowering food, water and oxygen through a tube.
Rescue workers worked around the clock to dig a huge trench through the slope and then tunnel horizontally to Rayan, at constant risk of landslides.
In the final hours of the rescue operation, workers had to exercise extreme caution as they attempted to dig through dirt and rocks to where Rayan lay.
Finally, they were able to get to the well late Saturday and carried his body to a waiting ambulance.
Crowds had gathered on the scene to watch the rescue attempt as hundreds of workers toiled to save the child. Moroccans across the country followed the saga on television in homes and cafes.
“I am so sad to hear that Rayan has passed away. Sincere condolences to the parents,” said Abderrahim Sabihi, a resident of Rabat who followed the rescue from a cafe.