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Spanish rescuers start drilling to reach boy trapped in well

"Be strong, Julen. Totalán is with you," read a handmade banner hung on the roadside near the rescue site.
Image: Rescue operation of a two year old boy who fell into a well in Malaga
Heavy excavation machinery used by rescue teams to gain ground to a hillside to reach the specific place where two-year-old boy Julen is believed to be trapped after falling into a 110 meters deep well, in Totalan, Malaga, southern Spain, on Jan. 18, 2019.Malaga Fire Department via EPA

TOTALÁN, Spain — Rescuers in southern Spain began drilling on Saturday in hopes of rescuing a 2-year-old boy trapped in a deep well for six days.

The mission to save the child has triggered an outpouring of public support as rescuers struggle with the challenge of bringing heavy equipment up steep access roads and reaching the toddler safely.

“We are incredibly motivated to reach him as soon as possible. We’re not bothered by the hours, the tiredness or the lack of sleep," Angel Vidal, the lead engineer overseeing the rescue, said on Saturday.

"We are hopeful that we will reach him as soon as possible and bring him back to his parents,” he added.

The boy, Julen, fell into the borehole, which is just 25 cm (10 inches) wide and 100 meters (yards) deep, as his family walked through a private estate in Totalán, Málaga.

Image: Rescue operation of a two year old boy trapped in a well in Malaga
A worker directs a pipe as part of excavation works to rescue two-year old boy Julen, who is believed to be trapped inside a well, in the village of Totalan, Malaga, southern Spain on Jan. 19, 2019.Daniel Perez / EPA

Officials have been unable to find signs of life but say they are working on the basis that the child is still alive. Video footage shot by firefighters and released by Spanish broadcaster Canal Sur shows a blockage around 70 meters into the well which has prevented rescue services from sending food or water to the child.

Trucks brought drilling equipment and giant pipes to the site on Friday. Drilling of the first of two tunnels that will be made to reach the boy began at around 3 p.m. local time and will take around 15 hours, officials said.

Once the first tunnel is completed, rescuers will begin working by hand to construct a second shorter tunnel to reach the area where the boy is trapped, which will take a further 20 hours.

Residents of the town have held vigils for Julen and in support of his family.

Spanish media say the boy's parents suffered another tragedy in 2017 when their three-year-old son died suddenly of health problems while walking along a beach.

"Be strong, Julen. Totalán is with you," read a handmade banner hung on the roadside near the rescue site.

"We are living some incredibly difficult hours for relatives, friends and neighbors (of the family) and we want to send them our support in this moment," government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa said on Friday in a news conference. (Reporting by Miguel Pereira; writing by Sam Edwards; editing by Jason Neely)