Madrid, Spain: Rescuers in southern Spain said Sunday that the frantic effort to reach Julen Rosello, a two-year-old boy who fell into a narrow, deep borehole seven days ago has again been slowed by difficult terrain.
Provincial authorities said that a drill used to create a vertical shaft parallel to the waterhole has hit a rocky patch.
There has been no contact made with Julen Rosello, who fell into the 110-meter (360-foot) deep shaft a week ago during a family meal in the countryside northeast of Malaga.
At just 25 centimetres wide (10 inches), the borehole is too narrow for adults to enter.
The only sign of the toddler search-and-rescue teams have found so far is hair that matched his DNA inside the hole.
Rescuers hope to find him at a depth of 72 metres (236 feet), where a soil blockage has hampered efforts to go deeper.
A specially-made cage has arrived at the site, ready to lower mining rescue experts down the shaft. The experts then hope to dig a horizontal tunnel to the spot where they believe the boy is trapped in the borehole.
Angel Garcia, the leading engineer co-ordinating the search-and-rescue operation, said on Saturday that the horizontal tunnel would take at least another 20 hours to excavate.
People across Spain have been gripped by the plight of the boy and his family, as the rescue attempt has suffered agonizing delays due to the rocky terrain.
Officials have been unable to find signs of life but say they are working on the basis that the child is still alive. Video footage shot by firefighters and released by Spanish broadcaster Canal Sur shows a blockage around 70 metres into the well which has prevented rescue services from sending food or water to the child.
Experts told Spanish media that there are slim chances that Julen could still be alive, explaining that cold weather slows a body’s metabolism, so it needs less energy and can survive with abnormally low breathing and blood flow.
“The cold has a double edge. On the one hand it’s negative, because it can cause multiple consequences,” Ivan Carabano, a paediatrician at Madrid’s Hospital 12 de Octubre, told the El Pais daily.
“But in this case we all hope for its better outcome: with it you gain time to survive because at lower temperatures the human metabolism slows and tissues are preserved.”
Trucks brought drilling equipment and giant pipes to the site on Friday.
Once the first tunnel is completed, rescuers will begin working by hand to construct a second shorter tunnel to reach the area where the boy is trapped, which will take a further 20 hours.
Residents of the town have held vigils for Julen and in support of his family.
Spanish media say the boy’s parents suffered another tragedy in 2017 when their three-year-old son died suddenly of health problems while walking along a beach.
“Be strong, Julen. Totalan is with you,” read a handmade banner hung on the roadside near the rescue site.
“We are living some incredibly difficult hours for relatives, friends and neighbours (of the family) and we want to send them our support in this moment,” government spokeswoman Isabel Celaá said on Friday in a news conference.