MADRID — The well is over 300 feet deep, but less than a foot wide. And somewhere in its depths a 2-year-old boy is believed to be trapped.
Frantic efforts to rescue the toddler, Julen Roselló, have been underway in the countryside northeast of the port city of Málaga after he was said to have slipped down the well while his parents were preparing Sunday lunch.
About 100 rescuers have been working at the site, covered round-the-clock by the Spanish news media, while Julen’s father has made repeated pleas on television for every effort to be made to find his son alive.
On Wednesday, the authorities in southern Spain announced that according to a preliminary DNA test, hair found in mud excavated from the well was the boy’s, confirming his presence. He is believed to be more than 250 feet underground, beneath earth dislodged by his fall.
The rescue operation includes specialists dispatched from Asturias, the coal mining region of northern Spain, as well as a Swedish company that provided the technology to help save 33 Chilean miners trapped for two months underground in 2010.
To reach Julen, rescuers are drilling two separate tunnels, one of which runs closely parallel to the well while the other is designed to open an alternative horizontal access route, using as a starting point a platform excavated into the hillside near the well.
They are also using special machinery to remove earth that is blocking access to the deepest section of the well, and installing a tube inside the shaft to reduce the risk of more earth falling into the well.
José Roselló, Julen’s father, told reporters that “we have an angel that will help my son come out alive as soon as possible.” Julen’s parents already lost their first son, who died when he was 3 from a congenital heart defect.
María Gámez, a local official in Málaga, told reporters on Wednesday that preliminary DNA testing was conducted on hair found within some of the muddy earth extracted from the well, which amounted to the first “scientific evidence” confirming that Julen was down below.
Jesús Esteban Gutiérrez, a colonel from Spain’s military police, told local news media that a dozen teams were involved in the rescue operation, but the police had also received over 60 additional offers of help from companies worldwide. “We’ve lost count,” he said.
The media spotlight on the rescue operation in southern Spain is reminiscent of that triggered by past efforts, like the one last year that saved 12 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped for more than two weeks in a flooded cave system in Thailand.
Another hopeful parallel may be the case of Jessica McClure, who fell down an abandoned well in Texas as an 18-month-old in 1987, and remained trapped for 58 hours until rescuers completed a parallel shaft and pulled her out. She was caked with dirt, but healthy.
Orignially published in NYT.