Residents of a south Winnipeg neighbourhood are hoping and praying that a nine-year-old boy who became buried in snow while playing will survive.

Neighbours believe the boy may have been building a snow fort on Wednesday evening when something happened and he became partially buried.

After the boy's mother and other adults frantically pulled him out of the snow, he was rushed to hospital, where he remains in critical condition as of Friday.

"I can still picture him and hear the mom screaming," Rebecca Hall, one of the neighbours who helped dig the boy out, told CBC News.

Area residents said the incident has prompted them to start warning other parents to watch their children closely as they're playing outdoors.

Survival expert Dave MacDonald says while what happened is tragic, it should not stop parents from allowing their children to play in the snow.

MacDonald, president of the Winnipeg-based International Canadian School of Survival, said there are safety measures that can be taken.

"If they're going to dig in the snow, I think the dome shape is probably the strongest," he said Friday.

"If they make it a flat roof there's a big chance, then, it could collapse in."

As well, MacDonald said children should always go outdoors in pairs whenever possible and stay away from roadways.

'I got to do something,' said neighbour

Hall said when she heard the mother crying for help on Wednesday, she grabbed her shoes and ran outside wearing her pyjamas.

"As I was coming closer to it, I saw her and then I saw the little boy," she recalled.

"Something just inside of me just kicked in and I'm like, 'I got to do something. I can't just stand here and not do anything.' So I just jumped in the snowbank and I just [dug] out, and I'm trying to calm the mom down."

While police say they do not suspect foul play, officers were seen in the area, trying to determine how long the child may have been buried in snow.

CBC News has learned that the boy's family moved to the neighbourhood from China about a year ago, and he was often seen playing outdoors.

"He loved to be outside," said Cathy Kinsman, another neighbour who came to the mother's aid.

"I don't know whether he was tunnelling or building a fort or what, but he was really stuck in the snow."