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7/24/06-New Delhi

Boy Rescued After Two Days In Well

A boy who fell into a narrow 18-meter (60-foot) -deep irrigation shaft and was trapped there for 50 hours was rescued safely on his birthday by soldiers, a difficult operation that was watched by millions of people on live TV broadcasts and sparked countrywide prayers.

Wrapped in a white towel, the boy, identified only as Prince, emerged dazed but unhurt from the hole on Sunday in the arms of his rescuer to loud cheering from thousands of people who had assembled around the hole.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was among those moved by the boy's story.

Politicians rushed to the scene, asking army and police officials for details and, TV stations said, delaying the rescue effort.

Prince fell into the freshly dug hole on Friday evening when he was playing in Aldeharhi village in the northern Haryana state.

The shaft, covered with an empty jute sack when the boy fell in, was just wide enough to fit the boy and too narrow for an adult to enter.

When villagers and local police were not able to rescue him, authorities on Saturday sought the help of the army.

Over two days, soldiers from an engineering regiment scooped out drums of mud from an abandoned well about three meters (10 feet) away from the hole, taking care not to use heavy machinery to prevent the soil from caving in on the boy.

With bare hands, soldiers then created a connecting passageway to the irrigation shaft using a pipe to reinforce it.

One soldier then reached Prince through the connecting pipe and, along with four other soldiers, took him back through the pipe and up the abandoned well to ground level.

The boy was monitored by a camera placed by the army in the shaft.

The camera showed the boy looking around timidly, munching on chocolate and drinking milk from a can that had been lowered by rope into the hole, along with some biscuits and tea made by his mother.

The story came into national prominence after the private Zee News channel first reported it Saturday. Before the army operation began, a Zee reporter lowered his camera into the pit and captured images of the boy crying that moved Zee's viewers nationwide.

Zee News, which was in closest touch with the boy's parents, reported the boy turned 5 on Sunday. Some other news outlets reported he turned 6.

On Sunday, most channels suspended regular coverage to devote nearly all their air time to the rescue effort.

Oxygen was pumped into the pit, and rescuers talked to the boy to keep his morale up.

On Sunday afternoon, he reassured his father he was feeling OK. Earlier, he had cried and pleaded with his father at the top of the shaft to rescue him.

Hours before the rescue, Press Trust of India news agency quoted an unidentified official in Singh's office as saying that "the prime minister prays for the speedy rescue and good health of the young boy who has been trapped."

Special prayers for Prince were held in Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, Christian churches and Sikh places of worship cross India.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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