'A hero': Morocco buries boy, 5, who died after falling down deep well

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
A view of the village of Ighran and the hill in which the rescue mission of 5-year-old Rayan had been taking place after he was stuck for several days
A view of the village of Ighran and the hill in which the rescue mission of 5-year-old Rayan had been taking place after he was stuck for several days   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy

The Moroccan boy who was found dead after being trapped down a deep well for five days was buried on Monday, following a tragedy that moved the world for five days.

The funeral took place after the midday Muslim prayer in an old cemetery a few kilometres from the village of Ighrane in the Chefchaouen province where the accident took place.

An imam said a brief prayer in front of the family and the gathered mourners before the burial.

The body of Rayan, 5, was pulled out of the well in the northern Moroccan village on Saturday night.

Rayan's death has triggered a considerable emotional reaction in Morocco and around the world.

"The silence is terrible in the village this [Sunday] morning. Everyone was praying that he would come out alive. Everyone cried," a relative of the family told AFP.

"The child's fall reminded the world of the values of humanity," commented the Morrocan public broadcaster SNRT on its website.

Shock, pain and sorrow

Abroad, Pope Francis praised "the entire [Moroccan] people who came together to save Rayan" during the Angelus prayer in the Vatican.

"[The rescuers] tried their best, unfortunately, they did not succeed but they offered us an example. My thanks to these people for their witness,” Francis said.

One of the strongest reactions came from Algeria's football coach Djamel Belmadi, who offered moving condolences to the family of little Rayan, at a time when relations between Algiers and Rabat are at their lowest.

"We are in great pain and sorrow, but it will never equal that of his parents and relatives," he wrote on the Algerian federation's website, saying he was "shocked".

The tragedy has prompted an avalanche of messages of compassion on the internet in Algeria, despite the political rivalry between the two Maghreb nations.

In a display of shock and emotion that gripped the Morrocan kingdom, it was the royal cabinet that announced the death of the child on Saturday evening.

King Mohammed VI himself called Rayan's parents to offer his condolences, and they thanked the sovereign, the authorities and all the rescuers.

And as soon as the death was announced, tributes on social networks poured in from all over the world, in all languages.

"You fought until the end, a hero," said one user on Twitter. "He succeeded where leaders and media failed. He united the people around him," said another.

Clandestine wells to blame

Meanwhile, work began on Sunday to fill in the relief tunnels that rescuers had drilled to try and get to Rayan.

Rayan fell into a 32-metre well located outside his home on Tuesday evening. The exact circumstances of how he fell are unclear.

For three days, search crews used bulldozers to dig a parallel ditch.

Then on Friday, they started excavating a horizontal tunnel to reach the trapped boy. Morocco’s news agency MAP said that experts in topographical engineering were called upon for help.

Rescuers used a rope to send oxygen and water down to the boy as well as a camera to monitor him.

By Saturday morning, the head of the rescue committee, Abdelhadi Temrani, said: “It is not possible to determine the child’s condition at all at this time. But we hope to God that the child is alive.”

The work had been especially difficult because of fears that the soil surrounding the well could collapse on the boy.

The village of about 500 people is dotted with deep wells used for irrigating crops including cannabis which is the main source of income for many in the poor, remote and arid region of Morocco’s Rif Mountains.