Morocco in shock after tragic death of ‘little Rayan’

By mid-afternoon Saturday, rescue crews, using bulldozers and front-end loaders, had excavated the surrounding red earth down to the level where the boy was trapped, and drill teams began creating a horizontal tunnel to reach him from the side.

But progress slowed to a snail’s pace as the drill teams worked by hand to avoid any vibrations that might bring the brittle soil down on the stricken child, local authorities said.

AFP correspondents saw the boy’s parents walk down the slope into the horizontal tunnel, visibly crushed, before returning and boarding an ambulance without saying a word.

After a period of confusion, a crowd of onlookers began dispersing in sombre silence.

The family was yet to announce the date of the funeral, but according to Muslim tradition it must take place soon, in principle as early as Sunday.

“SO TRAGIC”

Tributes poured in in the wake of the news that the rescue efforts had failed to recover Rayan alive.

“I want to say to the family of little Rayan and to the Moroccan people that we share your pain,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Facebook.

“Rayan’s courage will stay in our memories and continue to inspire us,” wrote AC Milan’s Algerian midfielder Ismael Bennacer in a tweet accompanied by a drawing of a child being lifted into the sky, carried by a heart-shaped balloon marked with the colours of Morocco.

“We all of us had been holding out hope that little Rayan would make it,” Moroccan-American novelist Laila Lalami wrote on Twitter. “This is all so tragic.”

RACE AGAINST TIME

Thousands of people had gathered and even camped in solidarity around the site in recent days, where AFP reporters have said the tension has been palpable.

Some had applauded to encourage the rescuers, sang religious songs or prayed, chanting in unison “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest).

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