100-hour mission to rescue boy trapped in concrete hole comes to tragic end

By Staff reporters   January 5, 2023 | 03:13 pm PT
The 10-year-old boy trapped in a concrete pillar 35 meters underground was declared dead after 100 hours of rescue efforts.
Lực lượng cứu hộ đang tìm cách cứu bé trai, 0h ngày 1/1/2023. Ảnh:Ngọc Tài

Hundreds of people raced against time on New Year's Eve to save Thai Ly Hao Nam. Nam and three of his neighbors went to a bridge construction site on Provincial Road 857 in the Mekong Delta Province of Dong Thap’s Phu Loi Commune to gather iron on December 31. He was walking when he suddenly fell into a hollow concrete pillar, which measured 25 centimeters across, and was trapped.

Lực lượng cứu hộ đang khoan để nhổ cột bêtông lên, sáng 1/1. Ảnh:Ngọc Tài

Rescuers drilled into the ground to widen the area around the pillar by about 10 meters so that cranes could lift the concrete pillar out of the ground. Workers said the pillar was unfortunately buried so well into the ground, they needed 10–20 times more power than they usually used to pull up such items.

Workers drill through concrete to approach the victim on January 1, 2023

Trụ bêtông cùng loại mà nạn nhân rơi xuống đường kính chỉ hơn 25 cm. Ảnh:Ngọc Tài

A concrete pillar similar to that which Nam fell into. It has a diameter of only 25 cm. "The concrete pipe is too narrow for rescuers to tell where the boy is at any point along the pipe," said Tran Van Gioi, deputy captain of the local fire and rescue police department. "It’s also impossible to determine the victim's health status."

Cảnh sát bơm oxy và thăm dò độ sâu của trụ bêtông. Ảnh:Phước Thanh

A 500-meter geological exploration camera was sent into the pillar and used to locate Nam. The camera’s night vision could locate the boy, but could not confirm if he was dead or alive. Meanwhile, a constant supply of oxygen was pumped down into the cylinder.

A firefighting officer from a veteran rescue unit said the pillar is too narrow for a rescuer to crawl into, and that Nam's attempted rescue was "very complicated."

"The only solution is to pull the pillar up," he said.

An auger being used on the night of January 2 to drill into the ground and pull up a concrete pillar inside which a boy is stuck. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Tai

An auger was used on to drill into the ground and pull up the concrete pillar inside which the boy was stuck.
The rescue team decided to first soften the earth surround the pillar by drilling and pumping in water to moisten the earth to more malleable mud. But it had to be done slowly and carefully to avoid breaking the pillar and threatening the Nam’s life even more. Rescuers abandoned the plan after more than 48 hours, afraid that the pillar may collapse under the tension.

A new plan for pulling up a concrete pillar where a boy has been trapped since Saturday noon in Dong Thap Province. Graphics by Khanh Hoang

After three days of failing to pull up the concrete pillar, rescuers had to adopt a different strategy.
They installed a 1.5m steel pipe around the concrete pillar and intend to pump water around it to clear soil surrounding the pillar and minimize friction. They would next use cranes and other equipment to lift the concrete pillar before using a specialized detector to find the boy trapped
inside the pipe. They could then cut the pillar at a certain point to release the boy.

Lực lượng công binh Quân khu 9 mang máy móc, thiết bị đến hỗ trợ cứu hộ, chiều 2/1. Ảnh:Ngọc Tài

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh ordered the National Committee for Natural Disaster Response, Search and Rescue, as well as the defense, public security, transport, and construction ministries, to provide personnel and equipment to for rescue efforts. He also called on all those involved to enlist the assistance of all such experts experienced in such rescue efforts.

Hundreds of soldiers and engineering experts were mobilized to save Nam.


Nam’s mother, Nguyen Thi My Linh, fainted at the rescue scene and was helped by local villagers on January 1. Doan Tan Buu, deputy chairman of Dong Thap Province, confirmed Wednesday that the boy had died after 100 hours of unsuccessful attempts by different agencies to save him.

Workers installed a steel pipe with a diameter of 1.5m on the morning of January 3.According to the latest update, rescuers are planning to cut a 35-meter-deep concrete pillar apart instead of pulling it out to find the body of a 10-year-old boy who was trapped inside for the past five days.Buu said on Thursday said rescuers were trying to get the first segment of the pillar out of the ground.

A steel pipe is placed into the ground around the concrete pillar early on January 3. Rescuers have now turned their efforts towards the important task of retrieving Nam’s body. According to the latest official reports, rescuers are planning to cut the concrete pillar apart instead of pulling it out to find his body. Buu said on Thursday that rescuers were still trying to first get at least the initial segment of the pillar out of the ground.

The moment the boy falls into the pillar as captured by a security camera

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