Tatra Volunteer Search and Rescue (TOPR) has been trying to establish contact with two spelunkers who were separated from the rest of their team by water while exploring Wielka Śnieżna Cave on Saturday.
Given the fact that the cave is the longest and deepest in the Tatra Mountains in Poland, the rescue mission is characterised by an exceptional level of difficulty. The two unfortunate spelunkers were isolated by water 500 meters below the cave’s entrance in the so-called Wind Well.
"It seems that the only way to get to the trapped spelunkers... is by resorting to the use of explosives,” said TOPR head Jan Krzysztof, adding that 27 rescuers and five firefighters from Kraków are exerting themselves to save the threatened lives.
“Slovak [rescuers] should be joining the action any minute now,” said Mr Krzysztof, adding that explosives specialists are also on the spot along with the necessary equipment. However, the TOPR said that the specialists will need a lot of time to finalise their work.
“Airing cave corridors is an issue we are concerned about… because it influences the intervals with which we will be setting off explosives,” said Mr Krzysztof, adding that due to the narrowness of corridors, at times only one person can operate, which in turn limits efficiency.
According to the rescuers, the cave’s corridor was inundated by water originating from recent torrential rains. The TOPR rescue team reported that no contact with the entrapped spelunkers has yet been established.
“Reaching the spelunkers is extremely difficult now, despite the fact that we know their position,” said the TOPR head, adding that “only the slimmest and specially trained rescuers can get there.”
The rescuers are also concerned about the spelunkers’ state of health, they have been underground for nearly three days in a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius and high dampness.
“The risk of severe hypothermia is very high and that’s why we’re concerned about their state of health and their lives,” said Mr Krzysztof, adding that “we need to brace ourselves for prolonged actions, perhaps days if not weeks.”
The Wielka Śnieżna Cave, where the two cavers are trapped, is the largest and longest cave in the Tatra Mountains’ Red Peaks with the total length of the underground corridors amounting to 23 753 metres. Moreover, the cave is immensely deep with a vertical range of 824 metres.