Toddler Rescue Effort Reaches Most Dangerous Stage in Spain

January 21, 2019 Updated: January 21, 2019

TOTALÁN, Spain—Efforts to reach a 2-year-old boy who fell into a borehole in southern Spain more than a week ago are nearing their most dangerous stage, an engineer on the rescue team said on Jan. 21.

The toddler, Julen, fell down the shaft as his family walked through a private estate in Totalán, Málaga, on Jan. 13. There have been no signs of life since.

Miners have been drilling day and night to create a parallel shaft, hoping they will be able to cut across by Jan. 22 to find the child.

Julen's parents Jose Rosello and Victoria Garcia are comforted
Julen’s parents, Jose Rosello and Victoria Garcia, are comforted by a Spanish Civil Guard in Totalan, southern Spain, on Jan. 21, 2019. (Reuters/Jon Nazca)

Work slowed on Jan. 20 after the drill bit hit hard rock and officials said there was a risk of more collapses as they carved out the horizontal passage.

“The most dangerous part, the most delicate part, still remains to be done,” mining engineer Juan López Escobar told Canal Sur.

“It is a complicated job where lives will be at risk, but they have practiced that, and they are the best,” he added.

A banner that reads "Force Julen! Totalan is with you"
A banner that reads “Force Julen! Totalan is with you” in Totalan, southern Spain, on Jan. 17, 2019. (Reuters/Jon Nazca)

Rescuers found that the borehole—300 feet deep and just 10 inches wide—was blocked with earth, raising fears that soil had collapsed onto the child.

“We’re at 53 meters, and we’re just another seven meters away [from where] we start the next job of creating the chamber,” Angel Vidal, the lead engineer overseeing the work, told reporters.

Spanish miners and engineers have been joined by workers from a Swedish firm who helped locate 33 Chilean miners rescued after 69 days underground more than seven years ago.

A drawing showing the area where Julen, a 2-year-old boy, fell into a deep well
A drawing showing the area where Julen, a 2-year-old boy, fell into a deep well when the family was taking a stroll through a private estate in Totalan, southern Spain. Pictured on Jan. 17, 2019. (Reuters/Jon Nazca)

Children and families have joined candlelight vigils across Spain in support of the missing boy.

El País reported that his parents had suffered another tragedy in 2017 when their 3-year-old son died suddenly after suffering a cardiac arrest while walking along a beach.

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