A Rockfall Has Occurred
Caves are living entities containing exciting streams and rivers, stalactites and stalagmites that grow at varying rates, mud and silt banks that are moved with floodwater, and rocks. Sometimes the rocks will move or collapse, possibly falling some distance. It has not been unknown for small earthquakes to cause rock falls underground.
Loose rocks resulting from breakdown activity may be dislodged and fall upon a passing caving party. Whilst uncommon, this is not a very rare event and can cause serious injuries to a caver.
Cavers passing through such unstable areas may dislodge boulders causing a rock fall and trapping the cavers. This is an extremely rare event.
Parties trapped on the wrong side of a rockfall may well have a considerable wait before the alarm is raised. The cave rescue team will respond according to the description above. Whilst searching, they will inevitably find the rockfall, and may be able to contact the missing party through the rocks. If not contact is made the controllers/wardens will have to decide whether the party is trapped.
The extent of the rockfall and the problem to extract the missing party will be judged. Equipment will be transported into the cave to facilitate the engineering of a route through the fall. This will include spades, crowbars and the like, together with scaffolding and shoring as appropriate. The team will then dig their way through, scaffolding and shoring as appropriate as progress is made. Sometimes rock splitting techniques will be used in this process.
Eventually a way through will be engineered and the party rescued. They may well be cold and exhausted, but will normally be able make their own way out. Hypothermic victims will need carrying out thus making for a lengthily and difficult rescue.