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Injured German caver rescued after 11-day ordeal

  • Members of the mountain rescue service stand next to the entrance of the Riesending cave near Marktschellenberg, southern Germany, early Thursday June 19., 2014. (AP Photo/dpa,Nicolas Armer)

  • This screenshot from a video provided by the Bavarian Mountain Rescue Service on Tuesday June 17, 2014 shows rescuers transporting cave explorer Johann Westhauser in Riesending cave. (AP Photo/BRK Bergwacht Bayern)

BERLIN: German rescuers Thursday brought to safety an injured caver, ending his 11-day ordeal and a massive recovery operation deep below the Bavarian Alps.

"The victim has been brought to the surface and is receiving emergency medical care," said a mountain rescue official after the team reached the mouth of the cave, where a helicopter was waiting, at 0944 GMT.

Explorer Johann Westhauser, 52, suffered serious head injuries in the accident about 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) below ground in the Riesending cave complex, Germany's longest and deepest.

Since then a multi-national team of hundreds of emergency personnel battled around the clock in a complex and costly operation to bring him to the surface.

Rescuers placed Westhauser on a fibreglass stretcher and negotiated a treacherous and labyrinth-like network of tunnels and chambers, underground lakes and ice-cold waterfalls.

The rescue operation involved rest periods in five bivouac stops, followed by a major final hoist up a 180-metre vertical shaft near the entrance to the cave, officials said.

The rescue effort, high in the mountains near the Austrian border, has involved professional cavers, medical personnel and helicopter crews, from Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Croatia.

Veteran caver Westhauser was exploring the cave system with two others when he suffered head and chest injuries in the rock fall on June 8.

One of his companions made the more than 10-hour trip back to the surface to raise the alarm while the other stayed behind.

The Riesending cave, north of the city of Berchtesgaden, was only discovered in the mid-1990s and was not explored and mapped until 2002. It is more than 19 kilometres long and up to 1,150 metres deep.

 
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