World

Attempts to rescue Spanish toddler hit snag

Efforts to reach a two-year-old boy who fell into a borehole in southern Spain on Jan. 13 hit a major snag on Tuesday when engineers said they would have to widen a parallel shaft before they could dig a horizontal passage to reach the toddler.

Hopes to reach boy Tuesday dim after workers discover they must further widen parallel shaft

Miners on Tuesday continued their attempt to rescue a two-year-old boy after he fell into a deep well nine days ago during a family stroll in Totalan, southern Spain. (Jon Nazca/Reuters)

Efforts to reach a two-year-old boy who fell into a borehole in southern Spain on Jan. 13 hit a major snag on Tuesday when engineers said they would have to widen a parallel shaft before they could dig a horizontal passage to reach the toddler.

Miners had been drilling day and night to create the shaft 60 metres deep, which they finished on Monday and started lining with thick metal pipes. Their hope was to be able to cut across by Tuesday to find the toddler.

"Technical difficulties have cropped up with the casing of the well after the depth of 40 meters," said a spokeswoman for the regional government at the site, adding that the thick metal pipes will be removed and drilling resumed.

"It is impossible to estimate how long it will take. The operation has already begun," she said.

No signs of life

Julen Rosello fell into the 110-metre-deep shaft as his family walked through a private estate in the town of Totalan, in Spain's southern Malaga province, on Jan. 13. There have been no signs of life since.

Rescuers found the borehole — 100 metres deep and just 25 centimetres wide — was blocked with earth, raising fears that soil had collapsed onto the child.

Work slowed on Sunday after the drill bit hit hard rock, and officials said there was a risk of more collapses as they carved out the horizontal passage.

Angel Garcia Vidal, the lead engineer co-ordinating the search-and-rescue operation, said work also had to stop briefly early Monday to perform maintenance on a drill being used to create a vertical shaft.

"We're at 53 metres, and we're just another seven metres away [from where] we start the next job of creating the chamber," said Garcia Vidal.

Spanish miners and engineers have been joined by workers from a Swedish firm who helped locate 33 Chilean miners rescued after 69 days underground more than seven years ago.

Children and families have joined candlelight vigils across Spain in support of the missing boy.

Spain's El Pais newspaper reported his parents suffered another tragedy in 2017 when their three-year-old son died suddenly after suffering a cardiac arrest while walking along a beach.

With files from The Associated Press