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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 12:46 GMT
British cavers rescued in Mexico
Rescued caver in Mexico
Briton Charles Milton emerges from the Mexican cave
Six British cavers rescued from caverns in Mexico after being trapped for over a week say they were never in danger.

The cavers were reached by specialist divers from the UK who spent Thursday escorting each man through flood water using scuba diving equipment.

The group were waiting at a camp they had set up for such an emergency and said everything had gone as planned.

The men, who were military staff, will meet Mexican immigration officials on Friday before flying home.

Heavy rains

They spent Thursday night in a military hospital having medical checks, food and rest.

The six men on the expedition were part of a 13-strong group from the Combined Services Caving Association and a row has broken out between the UK and Mexico about their visas.

We're feeling quite cheerful
Toby Hamnett
Rescued caver

The trip was due to last 36 hours but the men got stuck after heavy rains raised the water level in the cave.

The cavers declined local offers of rescue, instead preferring to wait for two specialist British divers who flew to Mexico to escort them out.

The British divers, assisted by Mexican underwater specialists, had entered the cave on Thursday.

One stayed with the men to instruct them on how to use the scuba equipment, while the other swam through the water with them one by one.

None had suffered any injuries and had supplies of food and other equipment to keep them comfortable, plus communication equipment to maintain contact with their colleagues outside the cave.

Rescuer outside Mexican cave
Rescuers escorted the six men individually through the floodwaters

The BBC correspondent at the scene, Claire Marshall, said the men told her they were "looking forward to a good beer".

They were fed hot tortillas en route to a military hospital in Puebla for check-ups, and are expected to travel to Mexico City on Friday.

As they emerged into the humid vegetation and a media scrum, one of them said they were never in danger and would have preferred to wait for the water to subside.

"The thing is, everything went as planned," Jonathan Sims said.

"We thought we might have a problem with the (water) so we put in a plan, we had food in there, communications," he said.

"The unfortunate thing is we got too much media attention."

Playing cards

They had spent part of the time awaiting rescuers by playing games with a deck of cards fashioned from a logbook.

"We're feeling quite cheerful," said rescued caver Toby Hamnett.

Mexican President Vicente Fox on Wednesday asked the UK to explain what the soldiers had been doing in the Cuetzalan caves.

Mexico complained it had not been told the military officers, who entered the country on tourist visas, were there.

The cavers will meet immigration officials in Mexico on Friday to clarify issues about their immigration status, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

Flying home

The six men, along with six others from their expedition, could then fly home from Mexico City, an embassy official said.

The Ministry of Defence has insisted the men were in Mexico as part of a military adventure training expedition and the clearance procedure for it would have been completed.

Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell welcomed the news the cavers had been rescued.

"We are extremely grateful to all the Mexican authorities who played their part," he said. "I hope to speak to my Mexican counterpart, Lourdes Aranda, today to thank her personally."

The BBC's David Willis reports from Mexico
"President Fox had demanded to know what the soldiers, sailors and airmen were doing in his country"

British cavers rescued in Mexico
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UK cavers prompt diplomatic row
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Britons trapped in Mexican cave
23 Mar 04  |  Americas

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