Save Rayan: Death of Moroccan boy sparks outpouring of heartbreak

Hundreds of people gathered at the well and many more followed online rescue efforts to save five-year-old Rayan Oram.

Parents of 5-year-old Rayan walk towards the tunnel as their son's body was being retrieved
Parents of 5-year-old Rayan walk towards the tunnel as their son's body was being retrieved [Mosa'ab Elshamy/AP Photo]

Rescue efforts to save a five-year-old Moroccan boy who fell into a dry well on Tuesday had captivated the world, as people followed the painstaking five-day operation to reach him.

Jubilation at the news that Rayan Oram had finally been freed on Saturday evening soon gave way to sorrow when his death was confirmed by local authorities at about 10pm local time (21:00 GMT).

On Twitter, where the hashtag #SaveRayan and its Arabic translation had been trending throughout the Arab world, users left messages of condolence for the boy’s family as well as praise for the rescuers.

Speaking to Al Jazeera at the site of the tragedy, the boy’s mother said she had prayed her son would be rescued. Mohamed Saeid, Ryan’s cousin, said he did not have words to describe the feeling of loss. Atiqua Awram, an aunt, said “my heart is aching for him”.

Imad Fahmy, a volunteer with the Red Crescent, had managed to communicate with the child, who was responsive. “I waited a few minutes and saw that he began using the oxygen,” he said.

Rescuers were able to feed Rayan and provide him with oxygen through an opening in the well and introduce a camera to monitor his progress.

However, efforts to widen the well to reach the boy were fruitless and rescuers opted instead to use diggers to strip away the earth at the side.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco expressed his condolences to Rayan’s parents in a phone call.

“Following the tragic accident which cost the life of the child Rayan Oram, His Majesty King Mohammed VI called the parents of the boy who died after falling down the well,” a statement from the royal court said.

Footage on social media showed Rayan’s body wrapped in a yellow blanket after having been retrieved through a tunnel dug for the rescue.

In a Facebook post, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his condolences to the family.

“Tonight, I want to tell the family of little Rayan and the Moroccan people that we share their pain,” he said.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, vice president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, offered his condolences to Rayan’s family.

“Our sincere condolences and sympathy to the family of the child Rayan and to the brotherly Moroccan nation and to all humanity that grieved for his loss,” Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter.

The UAE’s reaction prompted criticism from those who condemned its involvement in the conflict in Yemen, including Mahmoud Refaat, the president of the Paris-based European Institute for International Law and International Relations.

Social media influencer Amjad Taha, who leads the British Middle East Center for Studies and Research, said Ryan’s ordeal had “unified humanity”.

Twitter users also paid tribute to rescuer Ali Sahrawi, a well-digging expert who had spent hours digging with his bare hands.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies