BEIJING • A frantic days-long race against time by hundreds of rescuers to reach a boy trapped in a well has hit a snag, with the shaft found to be too narrow for workers to continue their mission.
Six-year-old Zhao Zicong was helping his father harvest cabbage in Baoding city in the northern province of Hebei on Sunday when he plunged into the 40m-deep well, the Hebei News Network said.
Yesterday, local media reported that the authorities had suspended the search-and-rescue work and taken Zicong's parents and grandfather in for questioning after failing to see the boy at the bottom of the well.
But the father later denied that he had been detained.
Citing a county propaganda source, Beijing News said police had escorted Zicong's family back to the station to help them better understand the boy's build and size in order to come up with plans to find him as the shaft got narrower the deeper it went.
A team of more than 500 rescuers and 100 excavators arrived on the scene after the boy's father made a call on Sunday for help on Chinese social media, the official Xinhua news agency said.
As the 30cm-wide well was too small to allow adults to descend, rescuers widened it while pumping in oxygen at the same time, it added.
Zicong's grandfather told reporters the well was dry and had been abandoned for five years.
"This well is neither filled up nor covered up. There is also no warning sign placed around it," he said.
Photos showed teams of hard-hatted men hauling woven baskets filled with dirt away from the well's mouth, while digging machines scrabbled frantically at the dry brown earth around it, carving a wide, shallow crater, Agence France-Presse reported.
Multiple ambulances stood by on-site. Rescue efforts have been hampered by the surrounding soil, whose soft and sandy consistency makes it prone to collapse
One of the rescue team leaders, Mr Pang Zhi, said on Wednesday that they had no life-detecting equipment and had to rely on infrared camera to look for the boy in the darkness. "But it is very foggy under the well, the lens becomes blurry very easily," he said.