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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 08:09 GMT
Cavers embarrassed by rescue

By Claire Marshall
BBC correspondent in Cuetzalan, Mexico

After emerging from the gloom of the cave where they had been trapped for more than a week, the six-man team of British cavers carried their own bulging rucksacks up the steep gorge to the rescue vehicles.

British men emerging from the cave
The men were well and jovial when they emerged from the caves

Beneath bushy beards they looked pale but were smiling despite being besieged by dozens of members of the press. They were driven away in trucks provided by the Mexican military.

Three of the expedition members spoke to the BBC while travelling along a bumpy track to their hotel in nearby Cuetzalan.

The priorities for the team were to call their loved ones back home and to get a cold beer. After tucking in hungrily to some hot flour tortilla and Mexican beans, former soldier Jonathan Simms said they had been well prepared for disaster.

"This was an eventuality which we realised could happen and we had prepared for, the plan worked like a treat and really it is no big shakes to us", he explained.

Despite having just being rescued from a flooded underground cavern he said he was keen to get straight back to caving.

Flooding

They had been exploring deep inside one of Mexico's most important cave systems when heavy rains caused the water levels to jump suddenly by nine metres cutting off their exit route.

The six man team of four soldiers and two civilians had to hole up on a dry area in a large part of the cave where they had made an emergency camp.

According to team member Christopher Mitchell they had all lost quite a bit of weight while they stayed there but the equipment which they installed in the camp had guaranteed their survival.

"We had sleeping bags and we had roll mats and we had enough food and in fact we actually left some in there", he said.

Rescue

The stranded group was rescued with the help of two expert cave divers flown in from the UK aided by two Mexican expert divers.

A supply of oxygen tanks was prepared and the men were escorted one by one, through the freezing murky waters of a flooded underground tunnel.

They were quite unprepared for the mass of television cameras and journalists waiting above ground to witness their rescue.

Local people were making the most of the situation and were selling tacos, tortillas and fizzy drinks to dozens of cameramen and reporters camping on the grassy hills watching the muddy pathway for signs of the emerging cavers.

Expedition member Charles Milton, sporting a particularly thick black bushy beard told the BBC of his surprise at the reception.

"Well I feel slightly embarrassed actually with all this media attention, I would have been quite happy to slip out quietly and go and have a shower", he said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's David Willis
"They clambered from the cave looking weak and exhausted"



SEE ALSO:
British cavers rescued in Mexico
26 Mar 04  |  Americas
Trapped cavers reject criticism
25 Mar 04  |  Americas
UK cavers prompt diplomatic row
25 Mar 04  |  Americas
Britons trapped in Mexican cave
23 Mar 04  |  Americas


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