efe-epaMálaga (Spain)

Rescuers working to find a boy who has been trapped in a deep and narrow borehole for over a week have finished carving a vertical tunnel and on Tuesday would launch the final and most complex operation to mine a horizontal tunnel by hand that would lead to where experts believe the toddler is, authorities said.

Rescue teams finished carving a 60-meter vertical tunnel at 8.30 pm on Monday, finalizing the first phase of a complicated operation to reach two-year-old Julen Roselló, who fell down a 107-meter (351-foot) long, 25-centimeter (10-inch) wide shaft while out with his family on Jan. 13 near the southern town of Totalán.

Ángel García Vidal, a delegate of the College of Civil Engineers and Canals in Málaga, explained the rescue team started carving the vertical tunnel on Jan. 19 at 1.30 pm and have spent 55 hours digging out 60 meters, working at a speed of 1.1 meters an hour.

On Tuesday morning the focus was lining the vertical tunnel to ensure it would be safe for the next step of the rescue operation, but an attempt to install the piping encountered difficulties, further delaying the task of proceeding to the final step of creating a horizontal access point which had been expected to start at midday.

Technicians were focused on broadening the vertical tunnel when it became apparent the lining risked getting stuck in the shaft.

Vidal said an experienced team of mine rescue experts who have traveled from the northern region of Asturias would start carving a 4-meter-long horizontal tunnel by hand, a process that could take up to 24 hours, once the vertical one was ready.

The experts would use wooden axes and a pneumatic hammer, and were considering using micro-explosives if they hit rocky terrain again.

The rescue operation has been hampered throughout by the terrain, which determines how quickly rescuers can work.

Hundreds of people have been working on-site day and night since the child fell down the cavity in an accident that has gripped the nation.

The toddler's family — who lost another child two years ago — have been receiving medical attention from psychologists around the clock.