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Rescuers edge closer to boy trapped in Afghan well, but rock blocks progress

The operation employed similar engineering to what rescuers attempted in Morocco in early February



Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 10:20 AM

Rescuers worked through the night to try to reach a five-year-old boy trapped for three days in an Afghan well, but an official said Friday a large rock was blocking their final access to the shaft.

The child, named Haidar, slipped Tuesday to the bottom of a well being dug in Shokak, a parched village in Zabul province, around 400 kilometres (250 miles) southwest of the capital Kabul.

The operation comes around two weeks after a similar attempt to rescue a boy from a Moroccan well gripped the world — but ended with the child found dead.

“The rescue operation continued all night,” Zabul police spokesman Zabiullah Jawhar told AFP Friday.

“The rescue team has faced a new obstacle and a rock is preventing them from digging more. We are concerned that dust could fall on the boy, and probably we would lose him, so we are working carefully.”

The boy’s grandfather, 50-year-old Haji Abdul Hadi, told AFP Haidar fell down the well when he was trying to “help” the adults dig a new borehole in the drought-ravaged village.

Officials said the boy slipped to the bottom of the 25-metre (80-foot) shaft, but was pulled by rope to about 10-metres before becoming stuck.

Senior officials from the Taliban’s newly installed government were overseeing rescue operations in Shokak, watched by hundreds of curious villagers.

Some Taliban officials were posting videos of the tricky rescue operation as an example of how the new regime — widely criticised for rights abuses — would spare nothing to care for citizens.

“At present, the child is alive,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a video message to reporters, adding workers were using pickaxes in the final approach to avoid disturbing the soil.

Video shared Thursday on social media showed the boy wedged in the well but able to move his arms and upper body.

“Are you okay my son?” his father can be heard saying. “Talk with me and don’t cry, we are working to get you out.”

“Okay, I’ll keep talking,” the boy replies in a plaintive voice.

The video was obtained by rescuers lowering a light and a camera down the narrow well by rope.


Engineers using bulldozers have dug an open slit trench from an angle at the surface to try to reach the point where Haidar is trapped.

The operation employed similar engineering to what rescuers attempted in Morocco in early February, when a boy fell down a 32-metre well, but was found dead five days later.

The ordeal of “little Rayan” gained global attention and sparked an outpouring of sympathy online, with the Arabic Twitter hashtag #SaveRayan trending.

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