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Afghan rescuers fighting against time to pull boy out of well

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KABUL: Rescuers in Afghanistan have been desperately struggling to reach a five-year-old boy trapped for two days down a well in a remote southern village.

Officials from the Taliban’s newly installed government were overseeing rescue operations on Thursday in Shokak village, Zabul province, around 120 kilometres northeast of Kandahar, watched by hundreds of curious villagers.

Video shared earlier on social media including by Taliban officials showed the boy, named Haidar, 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 light and a camera down the narrow well by rope.

Officials said the boy slipped to the bottom of the 25-metre shaft but was pulled to about 10-metres before becoming stuck.

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

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

“I said ‘no, not him’,” Hadi said.

“One of the wells was open… (then) the boy fell down. He was yelling and yelling.”

Hadi added that food and water were passed down to his grandson via a bucket attached to a rope.

“We gave him cake and water… he was eating them all,” he said.

On social media, Afghans were trending #SaveHaidar to express solidarity with the family and show support for the rescue mission. 

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

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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