Carlos Mendes, Luis Sousa, Daniel Pinto and António Afonso spent 48 hours trapped, from Saturday to Monday afternoon, in a cave in northern Spain.
The expedition into the cave was supposed to have lasted a maximum of 30 hours, but as soon as the Valongo Mountaineering Club team did not appear at their specified time, the alarm was raised by Portuguese and Spanish authorities.
Since Monday morning, eyes have been on the Cueto-Coventosa caves in the Cantabria region of northern Spain. When they were finally able to leave the cave after the entrance flooded, the members of the mountaineering club explained that they were thankfully prepared for this situation, and that they had supplies and equipment that would allow them to stay warm.
This allowed to feel a degree of safety, knowing that they would be all right, the only thing left to figure out was how long it would take rescuers to save them.
By early afternoon they had been located by the rescue team, and at 6 pm local time (minus one hour in Lisbon) they arrived at the cave entrance and left by foot in high spirits, looking slightly tired and just “concerned about families”.
Once the Portuguese cavers were out of the cave, safe and sound, Afonso Costa from Caldas da Rainha who is a tourism professional, told reporters more about what he and his team had gone through: “We are tired, but there was no panic,” he said. “We were surprised by the weather, the rising waters, but we knew the waters would come down. We were waiting,” said the Mr. Costa.
The group of four was trapped inside the cave on Saturday after the entrance became rapidly blocked by rising water. The four men had no alternative but to “wait the necessary time” for the levels to lower, but they allege that it was “no problem, we were prepared. We had food for three days”.
The four Portuguese men entered the cave on Saturday morning, but by Sunday night had not yet returned. By 10pm local time, a rescue team entered the cave through the Coventosa entrance, although it was only able to advance around 50 meters due to the force of the water.
Throughout the night two teams remained in the cave, joined by a third this morning, making up 40 people in total including expert cavers, Civil Guard officers, and Civil Protection personnel. As soon as they were found, a doctor from the rescue team entered the cave to check their health.
The Spanish authorities underlined the “extraordinary” professionalism of the rescue teams and the “exceptional” coordination between all bodies participating in the search, always accompanied by the Portuguese authorities, who were in contact with the Cantabrian government through the consul in Spain.