Swiss rescued from cave after three day ordeal

Happy to be alive: three of the Swiss students who survived three days in a flooded cave Keystone

Seven Swiss students and their guide have been freed from a cave in eastern France, three days after they were trapped by a flash flood. Their ordeal ended on Saturday night, when water levels fell sufficiently for the rescue teams to bring them out.

This content was published on May 19, 2001 - 21:25

The dozens of rescue workers broke into applause as the eight Swiss - three women and five men - were brought to the surface.

They were immediately taken to hospital across the border in Switzerland. Officials said they were weak and suffering from exhaustion but otherwise appeared to be in good health. They managed to keep dry throughout their ordeal, alleviating the risk of hypothermia.

They were located on Friday in one of two cavities known to have air pockets, about 80 metres from the entrance to the cave. However, it took rescue workers until Saturday night to reduce the water levels enough to free them.

Rescuers then brought them to the surface with a rope pulley system that enabled them to walk out.

Their ordeal began on Wednesday night when a flash flood sealed off the entrance to the cave, near the village of Goumois on the French side of the border with Switzerland.

After a day of frantic efforts to reach them, rescuers were forced to tunnel through solid rock to reach the cavity in which the group were sheltering.

The potholers, aged between 25 and 35, are student social workers from a Zurich college. They had gone into the cave as part of a course designed to develop their ability to face challenges in their careers.

The college directors said they were extremely "relieved" that the group had been found alive and well.

The group's guide has come under intense criticism in France and Switzerland for going ahead with the cave tour despite adverse weather conditions.

swissinfo with agencies

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