NEWS

Cave ordeal over for missing 3

After spending nearly five days trapped in the bowels of a flooded cave in central Crete, three speleologists were found safe and sound early yesterday, having survived on a diet of nuts and honey. Methodios Psomas, 35, Chryssa Mavrocosta, 30, and Russian postgraduate student Victoria Dukmasova, 25, had been missing since Saturday, when they descended into the largely unexplored Sarchos Cave, near the village of Sarchos on Mount Ida, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Iraklion, to map a subterranean lake network. But heavy rainfall flooded the labyrinthine, low-ceilinged cave, trapping the three – all experienced cave-explorers – in a waterlogged chamber 140 meters underground and some 1.2 kilometers from the cave’s mouth. After the speleologists’ friends raised the alarm on Saturday night, a team of 150 rescuers, including navy frogmen and a specialized French team that arrived on Tuesday night, worked frantically to pump water from the cave in order to reach a 12-meter-long, 40-centimeter-wide tunnel clogged with sand and stones. Until Tuesday, persistent rainfall kept flooding the cave, undoing all the pump work. At the other end of the tunnel, on a dry ledge in a 30-square-meter chamber flooded with two meters of water, the missing three were patiently waiting. The breakthrough came at 2 a.m. «We’re all fine, as you can see,» an unflustered Psomas told journalists upon emerging from the cave some seven hours later. «We just waited and economized on our lights.» Although no contact had been made with the missing speleologists for over four days, rescuers were optimistic, noting that the three had ample supplies of food and blankets. Sarchos – first explored in 1962 – has a relatively high average temperature of 16 degrees Celsius (61F).