Mother questioned after new-born found in Australia drain

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian police were questioning a mother Sunday after passing cyclists who had heard crying found her new-born son abandoned in a 2.5-metre-deep drain in Sydney.

New South Wales police said a group of cyclists were riding on a bike track along a highway in western Sydney early Sunday when they heard the sound of crying coming from a nearby drain.

"We actually thought it was a kitten at first, but when we went down there we could hear exactly what it was, you could definitely tell it was a baby screaming," David Otte, one of the cyclists, told The Daily Telegraph.

"We're just thinking about the little fella, he's a beautiful, beautiful baby." Police said the concrete slab covering most of the drain was so heavy it needed several people to lift it.

"With the assistance of several passers-by we managed to raise a large concrete slab which covers the inspection pit of the stormwater drain," Inspector David Lagats told reporters.

"Officers climbed into the drain and located a baby wrapped in a striped hospital blanket, approximately eight foot down on the bottom of the pit."

The baby, who police fear may have been dropped through a gap into the drain, was taken to hospital conscious and breathing and remains in a serious but stable condition, Lagats said.

He added that the baby was malnourished and between two days to a week old. The Telegraph reported that the boy may have been in the drain since Tuesday.

Lagats said the cyclists found the baby just in time, as a heatwave later swept through the state, with temperatures rising as high as 40 degrees Celsius in some areas.

"He was already malnourished and dehydration would have taken effect so I would have had grave fears for the child's welfare had it been exposed to this weather for the rest of the day," Lagats said.

"It's a horrific incident... but with all the teamwork from the bystanders too, it was a good result and hopefully the child will survive," the police officer said.

Investigators spent several hours searching hospital records and knocking on doors before they tracked down the 30-year-old mother, who is now being interviewed at a police station.