Totalán: The Spanish town united for trapped toddler Julen Roselló

Since the two-year-old fell down a borehole, this small community has come together to offer their services, food and homes to rescue workers

Aerial view of Totalán.
Aerial view of Totalán.JON NAZCA (REUTERS)
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Totalán is a small town nestled between mountains in a part of Málaga province known as Axarquía. It is home to just 715 residents. But when 300 people descended on the village to help rescue Julen Roselló, the two-year-old boy who fell down a 110-meter borehole on January 13, the people of Totalán were quick to pitch in and help. The priority is clear: rescuers must have everything they need to reach Julen.

Command center. Yolanda Alcaide has offered two basements in her house as a command center for the rescue mission. At least three meetings are held here each day to review the details of the operation. Government representatives, Civil Guard officers, specialists from the Fire Department and Civil Protection use the basements as a space to work, rest and eat.

Accommodation. After spending several nights in their car near the borehole, Julen’s parent Jesús Roselló and Victoria García were offered a place to stay in Totalán by another of the town’s locals. Here they have been able to receive friends and family as well as psychologists from the Eastern Andalusia Psychology School, who work in pairs and in eight-hour shifts so the couple will never be alone. Owners of rural hotels have cancelled reservations to ensure there are enough beds for rescuers, volunteers, journalists and Julen’s relatives. “I only want to help, to contribute the little that I can,” explains Jesús de Oses, who has put up his house, which has room for 14 people, and different areas where people can rest or work.

Parents of two-year-old Julen Roselló.
Parents of two-year-old Julen Roselló.JORGE GUERRERO (AFP)

Homemade food. Members of the Totalán Women’s Association meet every afternoon to cook food in huge pots for the 300 people working to find Julen. Stews and soups are some of the dishes that are made daily, as well as croquettes made with the leftovers of 50 roast chickens that one individual donated just hours after Julen’s disappearance. “Nothing is wasted around here,” they assure. Other people from outside of Totalán also brought food during the first days of the rescue operation. Indeed there was so much food that Rafael Gálvez, head of Civil Protection in Málaga, has insisted: “Please don’t bring anything more, we have more than enough.”

Business support. A little after 5pm on January 17, the heads of the businesses Cimentala and GT Cash received a call from Totalán. A drilling rig was required and a vehicle to transport it. Everything was organized at once. The machine was taken off roadworks on the M-40 beltway in Madrid, and at 9pm the convoy left with two drivers so they wouldn’t have to stop for rest. “When these things happen, you forget everything else and only think about helping,” says Felipe Llorente from GT Cash.

Metal capsule. The brothers Carlos and Miguel Tirados received one of the most important tasks of their lives last week: to build the metal capsule that would be used to lower down the miners tasked with finding Julen. They called all their clients to push back their deadlines and began working 14-hour days to complete the project. They began on January 16 and were finished three days later.

Volunteers. Around 100 volunteers have taken part in the rescue operation as part of the Civil Protection team. The group is led by Daniel Alcaide, who has been working relentlessly nearly 24 hours a day. “We are here to do what is needed, whenever it is needed,” he explains.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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