A public funeral has been held for a five-year-old boy who fell down well in Morocco, prompting large-scale but ultimately unsuccessful rescue efforts.
Large crowds gathered in the village of Ighran to mourn the boy, Rayan Oram, who was trapped in the hole for several days as rescue crews attempted to dig deep into difficult terrain.
Messages of support, concern and grief for the boy and his family poured in from around the world as the news of Rayan’s death spread late on Saturday.
On Monday, hundreds of mourners climbed the hilly, unpaved road leading to the cemetery in Ighran in Chefchaouen province in northern Morocco, where they waited for hours for the funeral to observe the Muslim burial rituals.
“I am over 50 years old and [have] never seen as many people in a funeral. Rayan is the son of us all,” one villager said.
There were so many mourners that they could not all fit into the village cemetery and prayer site. Two large tents were erected in front of the grieving family’s house, where mourners could stop to offer condolences.
“Rayan’s death has renewed faith in humanity as people in different languages and from different countries express solidarity,” another villager said.
On Saturday, condolences to the parents also came from King Mohammed VI, Pope Francis, French President Emmanuel Macron, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and others.
Egyptian and Senegalese football players held a minute of silence on Sunday before the kickoff of the final of the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament.
Nation in shock
Rayan’s father Khaled Oram said he had been repairing the well, close to the family home, when his son fell in.
The shaft, just 45cm (18 inches) across, was too narrow for Rayan to be reached directly, and widening it was deemed too risky, so earthmovers dug a wide slope into the hill.
Rescue crews, using bulldozers and front-end loaders, excavated the surrounding red earth down to the level where the boy was trapped, before drill teams carefully dug a horizontal tunnel to reach him from the side to avoid causing a landslide.
Vast crowds came to offer their support, singing and praying to encourage the rescuers who worked around the clock.
But the boy’s death left Moroccans in shock. Mourad Fazoui in Rabat mourned what he said was a disaster. “May his soul rest in peace and may God open the gates of heaven to him,” the salesman said.
Social media across the Arab world were flooded with messages of support, grief, and praise for rescue workers.
“He has brought people together around him,” one Twitter user said.
But one deplored a “dystopian world” where “Arab nations are moved” by the Morocco rescue operation for the child while vast numbers of infants die in conflict or famine in Yemen and Syria.