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Eight Swiss Tourists Trapped In Flooded Cave Rescued

Aired May 19, 2001 - 15:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news in France: Eight Swiss tourists trapped in a flooded cave are now free. The rescue happened just a short while ago in Eastern France. The amateur cave explorers have been stuck in a cave for several days after flood waters trapped them. For more on the rescue, CNN's Peter Humi is joining us for a live report by phone from Paris -- Peter.

PETER HUMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, just about an hour or so ago now, it is the eight Swiss students, three young women and three young men walked -- or rather waded their way out of the system of the caves in which they got trapped due to floodwaters to safely and able to breathe fresh air again, I guess, we could say.

Now they've been stuck in this cave system for 72 hours, a little more than 3 days, in fact. They were discovered by divers about 36 hours ago and it's taken that 36 hours to actually wait for the water levels to drop sufficiently to enable the group of eight to be able to walk out. Now, what the rescue services did for several days, was to try to pump the water out of the cave system. That was just not working, or it was working very slowly.

And then earlier today, earlier Saturday, they set off a controlled explosion, which worked a little bit like a plug in the bathtub, if you like, once you pull it out, the water drained away and that, once they set that explosion, it was just a matter of few hours and indeed they have all come out now safely on the French Swiss borders. The reason that they went in there in the first place on Wednesday evening local time, was a -- it was a character building exercise.

They're all students at a social workers college in Zurich, in Switzerland and this was part of their course. They certainly got more than they bargained for, I think, but at least now they're safe. They should be back home in Switzerland later on this evening -- Donna.

KELLEY: All right. Peter Humi, our Paris bureau chief. Thanks for the late information there.

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