Spain: Rescuers go underground in hunt for boy lost down a borehole

Mine-rescue experts to dig new tunnel in hopes of finding two year old, 11 days after fall

Two officers from Spain’s Guardia Civilstand next to a heart-shaped banner where two-year-old Julen fell into a deep well. Photograph: Reuters/Jon Nazca

Two officers from Spain’s Guardia Civilstand next to a heart-shaped banner where two-year-old Julen fell into a deep well. Photograph: Reuters/Jon Nazca

 

The search for a two-year-old Spanish boy who fell into a narrow well on January 13th entered its riskiest phase on Thursday as miners went down a new 60-metre (197 ft) shaft to start digging across to the well.

Spanish mine-rescue experts were lowered down the shaft, from where they hope to dig a tunnel to reach Julen Rosello, who has been trapped underground for 11 days.

A crane removes steel tubes after failing to place them into the drilled well. Photograph: Reuters/Jon Nazca
A crane removes steel tubes after failing to place them into the drilled well. Photograph: Reuters/Jon Nazca

“Members of the Mines Rescue Brigade sent from Asturias [region] have just accessed the vertical well to start excavation ... in the search for Julen,” said regional government representative Alfonso Celis at the site.

Authorities have struggled to recover Julen after he fell down a deep, narrow, 110-metre (360ft) borehole in the southern Spanish countryside on January 13th.

The only sign of the child found inside the hole so far is hair that matched his DNA.

Officials said a purpose-built cage was used on Thursday to take the miners down the shaft that was been drilled parallel to the borehole.

Miners working in rotating shifts will dig a four-metre passage with picks and pneumatic hammers from the bottom of the shaft towards the borehole.

The rescuers estimate they will need up to 24 hours to dig the four-metre (13ft) tunnel to where they believe the boy is.

A drawing in a notebook by Angel Garcia, delegate of Málaga’s civil engineers. Photograph: Reuters/Jon Nazca
A drawing in a notebook by Angel Garcia, delegate of Málaga’s civil engineers. Photograph: Reuters/Jon Nazca

Engineers and miners have worked for 10 days in a row but have run into various technical problems while drilling a shaft parallel to the well.

“No miner is left in a mine, and Julen is now considered a miner,” said Juan Lopez Escobar, one of the engineers in charge of the rescue operation.

“Whatever may have happened, a miner is always pulled out.”

Julen fell down the borehole shaft as his family walked through a private estate in Totalán, Málaga.

There have been no signs of life since.

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

Engineers have said that digging the horizontal passage would be the most dangerous part of the effort.

“It is a complicated job where lives will be at risk, but they have practised that, and they are the best,” mining engineer Juan Lopez Escobar said.

Spanish miners and engineers have been joined by workers from a Swedish firm who, in 2010, helped to locate 33 Chilean miners who were then rescued after 69 days underground.

Volunteers cook for the rescue personnel. Photograph: Reuters/Jon Nazca
Volunteers cook for the rescue personnel. Photograph: Reuters/Jon Nazca

Spain’s Guardia Civil is also investigating whether the borehole that Julen fell into was built illegally.

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

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that 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. – Press Association/Reuters