12 June 2014
Last updated at 08:18
The rescue operation began on Sunday and is likely to continue for several more days
Two doctors have reached an injured man trapped in Germany’s deepest cave and say once he is treated the operation to move him can begin.
Johann Westhauser, 52, was badly hurt by a rock fall on Sunday in the 1,000m-deep (3,280ft) Riesending cave.
The doctors have finally arrived at the scene and rescue officials now say it will be possible to move him.
However, they will first clothe him in a protective medical suit and have asked for medicines to be brought down.
The first doctor reached Mr Westhauser early on Wednesday evening, accompanied by a Swiss team of rescuers, and a second arrived during the night with an Italian group, German media report.
The news eventually came via a text message sent over a communication network installed by the rescue team.
Once the two doctors decide their patient is ready to be moved, the operation is likely to take several days, negotiating the cave system’s narrow passages and vertical shafts. The plan is to move him gradually from base station to base station.
Mr Westhauser was injured during a weekend holiday trip with two other cave explorers in the early hours of Sunday. The alarm was raised by one of his two companions, who took about 12 hours to return to the surface, while the other waited behind.
The Riesending cave – “massive thing” in German – is in the Unterberg mountain range, near Berchtesgaden in southern Germany.
Bavaria’s Riesending caves
- Deepest and longest cave system in Germany – 19.2km long and 1,148m deep
- Narrow tunnels reached only by abseiling down 300m
- Lies on Austrian border, north of Berchtesgaden
- Injured researcher reportedly helped discover caves in 1995
- Mapping of cave system began in 2002
Cave rescuer Norbert Rosenberger had earlier spoken of the difficulty in getting equipment in to reach the injured man.
The rescue operation was “like [climbing] the north face of the Eiger [mountain] – without boots or cables”, he said.
Although Mr Westhauser was wearing headgear, he was not protected from the weight of the rock.
He was one of the researchers who discovered and help map the cave a few years ago.