Moroccan rescuers dig toward child trapped in well

RABAT (Reuters) -Rescuers were delicately removing rocks on Saturday as they dug towards a young boy who has been trapped for five days in a well in northern Morocco, a dangerous operation constantly imperilled by the threat of landslides.

Workers with mechanical diggers have been trying round the clock to rescue the 5-year-old child, identified just as Rayan, after he fell into a 32-metre (100-foot) deep well in the hills near Chefchaouen on Tuesday.

"People who love us are sparing no effort to save my child," said Rayan's father in a tired, barely audible voice, as he stood watching rescue efforts on Friday night wearing a traditional hooded woollen robe against the cold.

Pictures on Moroccan media have shown Rayan huddled at the bottom of the well, which narrows as it descends from 45 cm (18 inches) wide at the top, preventing rescuers from descending.

Hundreds of villagers stood waiting nearby for news as the rescue operation continued, with workers in helmets and high-visibility vests carrying stretchers, ropes, tackle and other equipment down into a pit they have dug parallel to the well.

On Friday rescuers began carefully excavating a horizontal tunnel towards the child, sometimes being ordered out to stabilise the earth. The work grew more difficult as they encountered rocks between the trench and the well, a witness said.

The rescuers are placing concrete tubes into the horizontal tunnel as they dig to allow them to pull Rayan to safety.

A male relative of Rayan told Reuters TV that the family had first realised he was missing when they heard muffled crying and lowered a phone with its light and camera on to locate him.

"He was crying 'lift me up'," the relative said.

The hilly region around Chefchaouen is bitterly cold in winter and though food has been lowered to Rayan, it was not clear whether he has eaten any. He has also been supplied with water and oxygen using a tube.

(Reporting by Ahmed EljechtimiWriting by Angus McDowallEditing by Frances Kerry)