At 6am on Wednesday, rescuers finished resizing a vertical shaft made in an effort to reach Julen Roselló, a two-year-old boy who fell down a borehole in southern Spain on January 13.
Hopes that a team of specialists would go down the tunnel on Tuesday were dashed when the pipe used to case the shaft got stuck at a depth of 40 meters, 20 meters short of the target. The casing is meant to protect the miners, who will be lowered into the tunnel in search of the toddler.
Members of the Hunosa Mining Rescue Brigade are now getting ready to be lowered in teams of two and dig a four-meter gallery to connect with the borehole, a laborious task that will performed in 40- to 60-minute shifts and which is expected to take around 24 hours.
The impromptu search effort, which has brought together hundreds of people and dozens of companies in Totalán, Málaga, has been described by lead engineer Ángel García Vidal as “not so much a rescue operation, as a work of humanitarian civil engineering.”
García Vidal, head of the Málaga delegation of the Association of Civil Engineers, has emerged as the leader of a search-and-rescue operation with no precedent in Spain.
After being asked by the Civil Guard to inspect the narrow borehole that the child presumably fell into, located on a rural property in the Málaga countryside, García Vidal underscored the immense difficulties of bringing heavy machinery up an uneven hillside, then drilling in a rocky area without any preliminary geological studies to work with.
The constant setbacks, including the layer of hard rock that the drilling machine encountered on Sunday, have been overcome with help from countless individuals and companies who have been contributing equipment, time and expertise to the search operation.
Because the borehole is blocked by earth that the child dislodged during his fall, cameras have been unable to locate him, and the only sign of his presence are some strands of hair found inside the hole that match his DNA, as well as some snacks and a cup he was holding at the time of the accident.
English version by Susana Urra.