A man has been rescued after becoming trapped in a tunnel in central Rome that he had allegedly been excavating in an attempt to rob a bank.
It took firefighters eight hours to free the man, who was buried six meters down after part of a road collapsed on Via Innocenzo XI, close to the Vatican.
Emergency services were alerted after receiving a call from one of four alleged gang members who had managed to escape from the collapsed tunnel on Thursday morning.
A voice was detected from beneath the rubble and as rescuers carried out the complex operation by digging a parallel hole to reach the man, he repeatedly cried out, “Help, I beg you to get me out,” according to Italian media reports.
The man, who was given liquid food and an oxygen cylinder to help him breathe, was eventually pulled out alive to prolonged applause from a large crowd who had gathered to watch.
He was taken to hospital and was reported to be suffering from critical, but not life-threatening, injuries, police said.
Two people from Naples were arrested for resisting a public official and two from Rome for damage to public property, a police spokesperson told AFP. “We are still investigating. We do not exclude that they are thieves; it is one of the theories,” he said.
The man, from Rome, had previous robbery convictions, as did the four other alleged gang members, who had all been arrested, police told local media.
Police believe they were digging through the tunnel, which began beneath a shuttered shop, to reach the vault of a nearby bank.
They are alleged to have excavated a bit each day so they could carry out their heist on the Ferragosto public holiday on Monday, an Italian holiday akin to Christmas, taking advantage of the bank being closed and Rome being semi-deserted.