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Rescuers reach trapped German cave explorer

AFP

Swiss rescuers walk towards a tent near the entrance of the Riesending-Schachthoehle cave in southern Germany, on June 10, 2014Swiss rescuers walk towards a tent near the entrance of the Riesending-Schachthoehle cave in southern Germany, on June 10, 2014

Swiss rescuers walk towards a tent near the entrance of the Riesending-Schachthoehle cave in southern Germany, on June 10, 2014Swiss rescuers walk towards a tent near the entrance of the Riesending-Schachthoehle cave in southern Germany, on June 10, 2014

Rescuers said Thursday that doctors had reached a researcher trapped for days with a serious injury in Germany's deepest and longest cave and that he was fit enough to be rescued.

The two doctors have deemed the 52-year-old explorer "transportable" out of the dark and cold spot around 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) deep after reaching him late Wednesday, the Bavarian mountain search and rescue service said.

He was exploring the labyrinth-like Riesending cave on the Austrian border with two other people on Sunday when he suffered head injuries from falling rocks.

"The patient is transportable. We can begin with the rescue of the patient," Stefan Schneider, of the mountain rescue service, told reporters.

A further six teams carrying rescue and care equipment accessed the cave Thursday.

Rescuers said they could not indicate when the operation to move Johann Westhauser would get under way due to the difficult conditions.

It is set to begin when a team bringing a special stretcher gets to the man and transporting him back to daylight is expected to take several days.

"The patient is mentally and physically stable," Michael Petermeyer, a medic involved in the operation told reporters, after the two doctors, from Austria and Italy, had reached him.

Since the accident, rescuers from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy have helped in the complicated effort to free the Westhauser.

To help lift him to the surface, five bivouac stations have been placed at different levels and ropes installed.

The Riesending cave, which has only been explored by researchers since 2002, is more than 19 kilometres long and up to 1,150 metres deep.

"It's beyond imaginable what a rescue at this depth means," Petermeyer said.

Date created : 2014-06-12