Eight men have been trapped in the Hölloch cave in Switzerland’s Muotathal valley since 21 January. They will not be released before this weekend at the earliest due to heavy rainfall. They are unhurt and are currently stuck in a water-tight bivouac.
The cavers aged between 25 and 55 had entered the cave system last Saturday morning and intended to leave on Sunday afternoon, on an excursion with a professional guide. However, they were caught out by a sudden onrush of water and forced to stay put. A specialist search and rescue team has reached them but they must wait for the water to recede before making their way out of the cave along a three-kilometre-long route. The situation is being continually assessed by the specialists but it is likely that the men will remain trapped until the weekend when the weather is predicted to calm down. In the meantime, the group is receiving psychological support.
The trapped men have enough materials and food to survive inside the bivouac, where the temperature is six degrees Celsius. Cave rescue specialists will bring them supplies in the next few days.
The Hölloch cave system in the central Swiss canton of Schwyz is one of the largest cave systems in Europe due to its extraordinary length, estimated to be at least 190 kilometres, though it is likely to 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.
Correspondent: Graham Mullan