Miners close in on trapped Spanish toddler as hopes fade

Totalán (Spain) (AFP) –


Miners on Friday were almost within reach of a toddler who fell down a well nearly two weeks ago in southern Spain, although there has been no sign of life from the boy.

Rescuers have been working around-the-clock to try to reach two-year-old Julen Rosello, whose parents say he slipped down a narrow shaft as he played on January 13 in Totalan, a town near Malaga.

They now believe they know where he is inside the illegal well which is more than 100 metres (350 feet) deep but only 25 centimetres in diameter.

A team of elite miners was deep underground in a specially-excavated shaft parallel to the well, painstakingly digging a four-metre tunnel to link both channels and hopefully reach Julen with the help of small, controlled explosions.

"The excavation of the parallel shaft has progressed 3.15 metres," the Malaga sub-prefectural office revealed at 5 pm (1600 GMT), meaning they were within a metre of the zone where they believe the youngster is stuck.

Julen's distraught parents and relatives meanwhile maintained their vigil at the accident site.

"They are facing this final phase with great strength and have told me above all they have never lost hope," said Juan Jose Cortes, who is acting as the parents' spokesman.

Cortes is known in Spain as the father of Mari Luz, a five-year-old girl killed by a paedophile in nearby Huelva in 2008.

Malaga sub-prefecture said two helicopters had flown in four police explosives specialists and a potholer from Spain's Balearic Islands and the northern region of Cantabria to assist the operation.

The well was unmarked at the time of the accident and regional authorities in Andalusia said the necessary permission had not been sought before it was dug.