Morocco to map makeshift wells after Ryan tragedy

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Moroccan authorities plan to survey abandoned and unauthorized wells across the country, the official MAP news agency reported Thursday, after the death of a boy trapped in a borehole sparked global attention.

The boy, Rayan, had fallen down a narrow 32-meter (100-foot) dry well on February 1, sparking a huge but ultimately failed rescue operation.

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“In order to avoid any repeat of the tragedy of Rayan, the water minister has instructed the directors of water resource offices to carry out a full survey of abandoned wells,” Water Ministry official Abdelaziz Zerouali told the agency.

Wells that violate regulations will be made safe at the expense of those who dug them, followed by possible legal action, he said.

The case of Rayan sparked a wave of sympathy across the North African country and beyond, with some 1.7 billion people following the story online, according to the Observatory of Digital Public Opinion (O2PN).

Saudi Arabia said Sunday it has filled and fortified thousands of abandoned wells across the country in the wake Rayan’s tragedy.

After his death, debate in Morocco also turned to the issue of irregular wells, with some public figures urging a crackdown.

Zerouali said no precise figures were available on such wells, but that more than 1,000 people a year were fined for offences related to illegal drilling.

Many residents of rural Morocco struggle for access to water for drinking and irrigation, a problem exacerbated by a particularly acute drought in recent years.

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