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Underground cave rescue in Germany enters delicate phase

Underground cave rescue in Germany enters delicate phase
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Rescuers in the German Alps have begun the most delicate part of an effort to bring an injured man out of a deep underground cave by stretcher.

Johann Westhauser, a 52-year-old researcher, suffered head wounds in a rock fall at a depth of 1,000 metres over a week ago.

Three doctors who reached him in the cave near Berchtesgaden are negotiating a difficult section of smooth walls and a 200-metre ascent described as “brutal”, which could take two days to complete.

Mountain rescuers say the operation has gone well so far.

“The patient has been able to remain in the stretcher for the entire time so he didn’t have to get out. Three doctors are currently with him, a German, an Austrian and one from Slovenia. So his medical care — as far as this is possible under these circumstances — is very good,” said Roland Ampenberger of the Bavarian Mountain Rescue.

Rescuers from several countries are involved in the long haul to bring the injured man to the surface.

Westhauser was exploring the Riesending cave – the name means “massive thing” – with two companions when the accident happened.

One stayed with him. The other spent 12 hours climbing through the steep shafts and narrow tunnels to raise the alarm.