Colombian police and emergency teams successfully recovered 53 high school students on Sunday who had been trapped in a flooding cave in the northern state of Santander, according to local media reports.
After an eight-hour long rescue mission coordinated by the Red Cross and local police, authorities recovered the 53 children, three teachers, and three policemen with help from local community members, reported RNC Radio.
Civil Defense volunteer Daniel Tellez told Colombia’s La Vanguardia newspaper that it is common practice for groups of students from the region to go on cave excursions.
“The group did not realize that it started to rain heavily. Due to the downpour, the waters of the Rio Blanco river passing through the cave increased their levels. When people tried to return, it was no longer possible,” said Tellez.
He then added that if the children had stayed in the cave much longer, “no one would have survived.”
The group was trapped in the darkness 131 feet below the exit of the cave, in low temperatures and without means of communication with the outside world.
When the children, aged 14-17, realized they couldn’t leave, panic broke out and their guardians struggled to control the situation. Some of the students showed symptoms of hypothermia.
This triggered one of the police officers to go on a heroic mission to find his way out of the cave and call for help. As highlighted by Vanguardia Liberal, the skill and courage of the officer who risked his life to save the group were instrumental to the success of the emergency operation.
Members of the police from Velez, Jesus Maria, Sucre, La Belleza, Barbosa, volunteers from the Defensa Civil, and roughly 200 residents from the village of La Granja all joined the rescue mission.
- Rescataron con éxito a 53 menores de una caverna en Santander (Radio Santa Fe)
- Rescatados 53 estudiantes atrapados en una cueva en Santander (RNC La Radio)