The rescue of the speleologists who have been trapped in a cave system in the Polish Tatra Mountains since Saturday may take days "or even weeks", a spokesperson for the rescue team told Polish media. He also outlines that the low temperature is the greatest danger for the scientists.
The Tatrzańskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe (TOPR) mountain rescue association coordinates the search for the speleologists.
The association specializes in working under harsh conditions and consists of numerous experts. 27 of their rescue workers are also assisted by five firefighters.
Their rescue area is now the Jaskinia Wielka Sniezna cave system, the 'big snowy cave' that has not yet been fully mapped. This limestone cave is located in the Malolaczniak mountain in the western part of the Tatra Mountains, part of the Carpathians, in southern Poland.
Although the team knows exactly where the speleologists are located, the circumstances in the cave make it difficult to reach them. Only one rescue worker can move through the narrow aisles at a time.
Explosives used to free the speleologists
The speleologists have gotten stuck because of an access passage with water. Four others who were with them were able to escape and alerted the emergency services.
The rescue team describes that explosives may be deployed to make a different route. But this can "take days to weeks," says the spokesperson for TOPR.
"We are very concerned about the condition of the speleologists," he continues. "It is around 4 degrees Celsius in the cave, so they run a high risk of becoming supercooled."
Despite attempts to do so, there has been no contact with the scientists.