Rescuers work to reach a five-year old boy trapped in a well in the northern hill town of Chefchaouen, | STRINGER

Rescue workers edged closer on Saturday to reaching a 5-year-old boy who has been trapped for five days in a well in northern Morocco, a case that has gripped the country.
The child, publicly identified only by his first name, Rayan, fell into the well in the hill town of Chefchaouen on Tuesday.

The well is 32 metres (100 feet) deep and narrows as it descends from a 45 cm (18 inches) diameter at the top, which means rescuers cannot go down themselves to retrieve the child.

Rescuers have worked with bulldozers to cut a massive trench into the hill next to the well, leaving a gaping hole in the reddish earth. By Saturday morning they were digging horizontally towards the well, and installing PVC tubes to protect against landslides and get the boy out.

"This second rescue step is about to finish ... we are racing to get to Rayan and digging goes as planned," lead rescuer Abdelhadi Tamrani told state TV 2M early on Saturday.

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State news outlet SNRT News quoted a rescuer on Friday as saying the boy was still alive.

The hilly region around Chefchaouen is bitterly cold in winter and though food has been lowered to Rayan, it was not clear whether he has eaten any. He has also been supplied with water and oxygen using a tube.

A local witness told Reuters that horizontal digging was delayed by rocks which complicated manual excavation.

A helicopter was standing by to ferry Rayan to hospital as soon as he is freed.