Four British Cavers Rescued as Row with Mexico Grows

By Danielle Demetriou and Tim Gaynor | The Independent (London, England), March 26, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Four British Cavers Rescued as Row with Mexico Grows


Danielle Demetriou and Tim Gaynor, The Independent (London, England)


FOUR OF the six Britons trapped in a Mexican cave system were rescued last night as diplomatic tension mounted over the expedition.

Less than 24 hours after the Mexican President, Vicente Fox, questioned the legitimacy of the military expedition, the British ambassador in Mexico dismissed suggestions that the Ministry of Defence was at fault as "pure fantasy".

Two British divers, dispatched by the MoD, entered the caves yesterday and contacted the trapped explorers. One of the trapped men, named as Chris Mitchell, and another three were pulled to safety in a 45-minute operation.

The five military cavers and a civilian guide had been preparing to spend their ninth night 90 metres underground in the Alpazat cave system in the mountain town of Cuetzalan, central Mexico.

The acting British ambassador, Vijay Rangarajan, said: "The divers have entered the sump [flooded area], and they have been to the other side and made contact with the team. They are in a good condition, they seem fine. It's not going to be a quick process, it will take a few hours."

The diplomatic dispute began after the group rejected assistance from the Mexican rescue authorities when they became trapped on 17 March, saying they had sufficient supplies and equipment.

Members of the group were visiting the country on tourist visas, despite their intention to map the caves as part of a military expedition.

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