WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Dozens of rescuers have been working around the clock in southern Poland to find two missing spelunkers trapped by rising water in a cave, using explosives to widen underground passages to help in the search.
The two became trapped Saturday while exploring uncharted parts of the Wielka Sniezna cave in the Tatra mountains. The cave, Poland’s deepest and longest, has 24 kilometers (15 miles) of passages that go 800 meters (2,625 feet) underground.
Rescue chief Jan Krzysztof said Monday his team has had no contact with the missing cavers and could only roughly guess where they could be, based on the accounts of four other explorers who managed to leave the cave, but had not explored the exact area.The group of six had entered the cave on Thursday.
“We are fearing for their lives now, we don’t know if they are alive. This is the big question,” Krzysztof said on private TVN24.
He said the two were members of an explorers club in the southwestern city of Wroclaw.
Krzysztof said the main obstacle slowing down the operation were the cave’s narrow corridors. The rescuers were using small amounts of explosives to crumble the rocks and widen passages, but that produced harmful gasses and dust. Krzysztof said up to three-hour breaks are needed between the explosions to safely ventilate the air in the cave. Poor visibility prevented the use of a special camera.
Mine experts, firefighters and mountain rescuers from neighboring Slovakia were also involved in the search. Krzysztof said divers from around Europe were offering to help, but currently the operation does not require diving.
Last year in Thailand, 12 teenage boys and their soccer coach were rescued in a daring operation after spending nine nights in a cave that got cut off by rising water.