The eight men trapped since Sunday in the Hölloch cave network in Switzerland’s Muotathal valley - Western Europe’s longest cave - are now free.
The Schwyz cantonal police said external linkthat the men had left the cave in the night from Thursday to Friday. They are all unhurt, were in good spirits and have returned home, police said.
Originally it had been thought that the group of seven tourists and their guide would have to wait until the weekend to be freed, but the water level in the cave dropped earlier than expected, a police spokesman told the Swiss news agency SDA-ATS.
The group of cavers aged between 25 and 55 had entered the cave system on the Saturday and planned to leave on Sunday afternoon. However, they were surprised by a sudden onrush of water during an excursion with a professional guide. A specialist search and rescue team reached them but the water levels made a rescue impossible at that stage. The group had received psychological support.
The Hölloch cave system (German for ‘hell-hole’) in the central Swiss canton of Schwyz is known as one of the largest cave systems in Europe due to its extraordinary length which is estimated to be at least 190 kilometres, but could possibly be ten times longer. Cavers have become trapped there in the past, particularly in winter when most expeditions take place because of low water levels.
There are to be no legal consequences arising from this latest incident, the spokesman said, as there was no evidence of negligence.