A suspected robber had to be rescued after being buried in a collapsed tunnel near the Vatican while his gang attempted to burrow 20ft into a bench.
The man was freed after eight hours, the fire brigade dug him under Via Innocenzo XI in Rome after the asphalt gave way.
It is believed that the man and his four accomplices were preparing to rob a nearby bank vault and dug the tunnel, which started near an empty store, to get there.
According to Italian media, one of his four suspected accomplices, who managed to escape from the collapsed tunnel, alerted the rescue workers – and the fire brigade then heard a voice from under the rubble.
Rescuers then used mechanical excavators to dig a parallel hole to free the man during the lengthy extrication operation, while he shouted, “Help, I’m asking you to get me out.”
He was given liquid food and an oxygen tank to help him breathe, and was eventually pulled out alive as a large crowd cheered.
The man was then taken to the hospital, where he remains with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
The man was saved in an eight-hour operation. He was given liquid food and an oxygen tank to help him breathe and was eventually pulled out alive, pictured.
Rescuers pictured dug a parallel hole to extricate the man during the lengthy salvage operation as he yelled, “Help, I’m asking you to get me out.”
The man was then taken to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. In the picture: The big rescue operation to free the man
Pictured: A map showing the location of the tunnel in central Rome, near Vatican City. It started near a closed shop
Local residents watched as the rescue happened. A local resident said they had no suspicion that anyone was digging a hole and there were no noises. Pictured: The team working to save the man
Pictured behind the police line and excavator was a huge crowd of onlookers watching the rescue until it was complete
A resident named Michelle, who lives in the same building, said: “We all thought that people there were renovating the place. So we didn’t have any suspicions and we didn’t hear any noises either.”
A police spokesman said two people from Naples and two from Rome had been arrested for defying a public official and damaging public property.
They added: “We are still investigating. We do not rule out that they are thieves; it’s one of the theories.’
A digger and tent are seen as a rescue operation in Rome to get the man out unfolded (pictured). The police do not rule out that the hole could have been dug for a robbery
Pictured: The tunnel from which the suspected bank robber was rescued. It started under an empty store that was closed and said to have recently been rented out
A large group of emergency services gathered to help with the rescue effort, pictured. The suspected members of the gang were arrested
An oxygen cylinder used along with liquid food for the man is seen as firefighters worked to get him out of the tunnel, pictured
Although police have not confirmed the men were looking for a robbery, Italian media have reported that it is likely the men were. Because Ferrogosto is imminent in Italy, where many are leaving the city. They believe the men took advantage of the empty city to carry out the robbery. Pictured: the scene in Rome
However, Italian media have noted that the tunnel was found before the August 15 long weekend, when Rome is empty as residents traditionally leave the city for Ferragosto, and reported that the hole was likely dug for a bank robbery.
Corriere della Sera wrote daily, “The whole gang,” while La Stampa said, “They are digging a tunnel to rob a bank and one of them is buried underground.”
And police told local media that the man, along with the four other gang members, had already been convicted of robbery.
The alleged would-be bank robbers all have previous convictions for robbery. Pictured: The equipment used for the rescue, including excavators and ropes
The man’s accomplices managed to escape from the collapsed tunnel, but he was stuck and had to be freed. Pictured: The crowd of police and emergency services in Rome
Excavators were used as part of the complex operation to free the man. A huge mound of dirt can be seen next to the emergency services