FLAUJAC, France (AP) -- Seven French cave explorers enjoyed their first day above ground Monday after a huge rescue operation succeeded in freeing them from a deep underground cave where they had been trapped by a swollen river for 10 days.
The men had been exploring caves in southwestern France but were trapped when an underground river rose suddenly after violent storms in the area.They were stranded on Nov. 11, 330 feet underground in an arching chamber.
All seven were on the surface by 4 a.m. Monday, bearded and muddy, but in good health. The men emerged one-by-one from a boring hole.
The plight of the explorers, aged between 19 and 55, captured national attention with people sending messages of support to family members and tracking the progress of about 150 rescuers as they searched for the men.
Rescuers drilled deep holes in three separate spots to install lighting and sophisticated listening equipment. They drilled in Flaujac, though the explorers had entered the cave in the nearby town of Gramat.
A team descended about 330 feet into one of the slippery holes to reach the explorers.
The cavers, who were all very experienced, had planned a three-day expedition, equipped with plenty of food and canoes.
"They coped very well, even when the waters rose twice. We found them in excellent form. I was very surprised by their health because they really went to the edge," said Pierre-Yves Besson, a cave explorer from Isere in southeast France.