AS rescuers embark on their ninth day of work to save little Julen Jimenez they face yet another tragic setback.
The team made a huge breakthrough last night having finished the vertical tunnel running parallel to the 107-metre-deep hole which the two-year-old fell down on January 13 in Totalan.
It was planned that once the drill reached a depth of 60 metres, the tunnel would be cladded for safety.
A group of specialised miners, who have been flown in from Asturias, would be lowered down to dig the last four metres by hand and reach the toddler.
But the tubes needed to clad the tunnel do not fit, meaning the miners could get stuck or the well could collapse, reported Diario Sur.
Engineers have now decided to fill the well with fine soil to thicken the walls, before inserting the tube, to make sure it stays securely in place.
Workers close to the operation had previously expected to reach little Julen today, but have now said they cannot predict how long this will take.
Andalucian MP, Alfonso Rodríguez Gómez de Celis, said today that he hopes for a ‘happy ending between today and tomorrow’.
The 300-strong team has worked around the clock to carry out the complex engineer operation, which ‘normally would take six or seven months’. The Malaga team hopes to achieve it in days.
Nuestro mensaje de aliento es para todas las personas que siguen dando lo mejor de sí mismos, sin descanso ni desánimo en el rescate extremo del pequeño Julen en #Totalán #Málaga— Guardia Civil ?? (@guardiacivil) January 21, 2019
¡Ánimo! #ServiryProteger #AllíDondeNosNecesites ? #062 pic.twitter.com/GRHFFP513l
It comes after efforts were delayed on Sunday when the boring machine, used to make the tunnel, hit a strong rock at 52 metres which they struggled to perforate.
The team also battled the elements on Saturday night as rain lashed down delaying efforts.
Malaga Court has opened an investigation to understand the circumstances in which Julen fell down the well, which measures just 25 centimetres in diameter, on a family farm on the outskirts of Totalan.
According to El Pais the Guardia Civil has taken statements from Julen’s parents – mum, Vicky Maria, and dad, Jose – the owner of the land, and the person responsible for creating the well in December.