Rescue crews in Spain appeared to be centimeters of rock away late Friday from the space where a 2-year-old boy is believed to be trapped underground after falling into a borehole 12 days ago.
Julen Rosello fell down the narrow 110-meter-deep borehole (360 feet) on Jan. 13 while his family was preparing a countryside Sunday lunch. His parents had another young son who died in 2017, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.
The tragic accident in Malaga province gripped Spaniards from day one and the country has followed closely every turn of an extremely complex and frequently hampered search-and-rescue mission.
The dry waterhole, only 25 centimeters in diameter (about 10 inches), is too narrow for an adult to get into and hardened soil and rock blocked equipment from progressing to the place two-thirds of the way down where Julen is thought to be.
Officials have been trying to create alternative routes to the toddler. A series of small explosions set off since Thursday afternoon, including a fourth one late Friday, helped workers dig most of a 3.8-meter-long horizontal tunnel (about 12½ feet) to the cavity.
The tunnel is 70 meters (230 feet) underground, and a vertical shaft had to be drilled over the past few days to bring miners and rescue experts up and down during the painstaking engineering feat.
Jorge Martin, a spokesman with the Malaga province Civil Guard, said the most recent controlled explosion was needed to complete the last 45 centimeters (about 18 inches).
“This controlled micro-explosion needs to be extremely precise due to the proximity to the place where Julen supposedly is,” Martin told reporters at the site.
The only sign of the toddler found so far is hair that matched his DNA, but officials have refused to comment on whether he could have survived so long.
In one of the few media interviews the child’s parents have given, father Jose Rosello said the family was “heartbroken” by the long wait but hoping for “a miracle.”
El Pais reported that the couple lost Julen’s older brother, Oliver, when the 3-year-old suffered a heart attack during a walk on the beach two years ago.