Rescuers blasting their way out of tight spot in crumbling cave

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Guardia Civil
GOING UNDERGROUND: The rescuers had to use fifty small explosive devices to reach the fallen Frenchman.

THE Guardia Civil have performed a daring rescue to save the life of a 37-year-old French caver who was injured while plumbing the depths of a grotto on Mount Larra in Navarra and remained trapped underground for three days.

An emergency call from one of the man’s colleagues was placed on August 10, which described how the stricken speleologist was pinned down in a narrow section of the cave, around 200 metres below the surface.

It transpired that a rock had fallen onto his back, resulting in damage to his vertebrae, shoulder blade and abdomen, but the cave in which he was imprisoned contained too many cramped twists and turns to allow passage of a stretcher.

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The ingenious police team thus decided to perform a series of fifty mini controlled explosions at nine strategically-selected points in order to blast a clear route to the captive caver, with the specialised technique utilising small quantities of explosives that do not release large quantities of gas, and breaking rocks down into small pieces which can be easily cleared, while preventing seismic effects which could cause landslides.

More than thirty members of the Guardia’s mountain rescue branch GREIM, plus four explosive experts from the GEDEX unit, ten officers and two helicopters participated in the dramatic rescue, with the crew performing a slow, painstaking operation which eventually resulted in the spelunker’s extraction at around 4.20am on Saturday, August 13, a crane being used to haul his stretcher out of the underworld.

The injured man was initially treated at the scene, before being air-lifted to a hospital in Pau, France.

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