SYDNEY - Australian police were questioning a mother Sunday after passing cyclists who had heard crying found her new-born son abandoned in a 2.5-metre-deep (8.2-feet) drain in Sydney.
New South Wales police said a group of cyclists were riding on a bike track along a highway in western Sydney early Sunday when they heard the sound of crying coming from a nearby drain.
"We actually thought it was a kitten at first, but when we went down there we could hear exactly what it was, you could definitely tell it was a baby screaming," David Otte, one of the cyclists, told The Daily Telegraph.
"We're just thinking about the little fella, he's a beautiful, beautiful baby."
Police said the concrete slab covering most of the drain was so heavy it needed several people to lift it.
"With the assistance of several passers-by we managed to raise a large concrete slab which covers the inspection pit of the stormwater drain," Inspector David Lagats told reporters.
"Officers climbed into the drain and located a baby wrapped in a striped hospital blanket, approximately eight foot down on the bottom of the pit."
The baby, who police fear may have been dropped through a gap into the drain, was taken to hospital conscious and breathing and remains in a serious but stable condition, Lagats said.
He added that the baby was malnourished and between two days to a week old. The Telegraph reported that the boy may have been in the drain since Tuesday.
Lagats said the cyclists found the baby just in time, as a heatwave later swept through the state, with temperatures rising as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas.
"He was already malnourished and dehydration would have taken effect so I would have had grave fears for the child's welfare had it been exposed to this weather for the rest of the day," Lagats said.
"It's a horrific incident... but with all the teamwork from the bystanders too, it was a good result and hopefully the child will survive," the police officer said.
Investigators spent several hours searching hospital records and knocking on doors before they tracked down the 30-year-old mother, who is now being interviewed at a police station.