Three cavers trapped underground in the Bungonia National Park for nearly a day have been rescued and taken to the surface.
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Cavers trapped in rugged terrain
A friend of one of three trapped cavers in Bungonia National Park arrives on the scene after the man's partner contacted him in distress on Monday morning. Vision: Nine News.
Police and paramedics had been searching for the three men - aged 52, 47 and 21 - who were reported missing on Sunday night after heavy rain and a possible rockfall trapped them in the caves.
Rescuers initially dug a small hole through to the cavern in which they were trapped.
A NSW Ambulance spokeswoman said rescuers managed to bring the first man to the surface just before 1pm on Monday, 24 hours after the trio entered the caves.
The two remaining cavers were rescued just before 2pm.
The men were "cold and wet, but otherwise well", the spokeswoman said.
Inspector John Sheehan said they became trapped between two separate flooded areas in the Hogan’s Extension cave.
Rescuers dug their way through mud and slush to reach the trio.
Receding water levels helped the rescue operation.
"It’s always a delicate operation because you're underground and in a very confined space," Inspector Sheehan said.
The cavers, who declined to be interviewed, gave a thumbs-up when they arrived back on dry land and planned to have a good sleep on Monday afternoon.
Heavy rain fell in the area on Sunday afternoon, flooding a section of the cave system and preventing the cavers' escape. One person involved in the rescue effort suggested there had been a rockfall in the caves.
Police said the men entered the cave system in Bungonia Gorge about 1pm on Sunday and were due to return at 6pm.
The sister of one of the men raised the alarm about 10pm on Sunday when they had still not turned up.
Police said rain and water in the cave system had hampered the search, involving specialist officers from the Goulburn Police Rescue squad and the Goulburn Local Area Command, and NSW Ambulance Special Operations Team members.
Mark Cooper travelled to the rescue site from Canberra early on Monday morning after he learnt that his friend's brother, David Bedford, 21, was missing in the caves.
"As soon as we heard that I said, 'Look we'll head out there, let's do it,' " Mr Cooper said.
"Halfway here we heard that they had vocal contact with them and that's all we've heard, and they're having troubles to try and get him out. A lot of water, and that's all I know."
He said Mr Bedford was from Colo Vale, but he did not know the other two men Mr Bedford was caving with at the time.
However, he said they were experienced and "they've done this [caving in the Bungonia National Park] a ridiculous amount of times before".
Asked how he was feeling, Mr Cooper said: "Pretty scared, you know, that something really, really bad might happen.
"I'm just hoping they'll get out."
Brett Dutschke, a meteorologist at Weatherzone, said the Goulburn area had received about 50 millimetres of rain since Friday.
"The heaviest rainfall was on Sunday afternoon. There would have been some brief flash flooding around about 4.30pm in that area," Mr Dutschke said.
Inspector Anthony McLean, from Goulburn police, said the men were believed to be friends, and had previously been caving in the Bungonia area.
Earlier, he said the men were carrying technical caving equipment, and rescue teams had started searching for the men late on Sunday and throughout the night.
"I know there is some water in the caves, but I'm not sure how much at the moment," he said.
He declined to name the cave in which the men were stuck.
According to the Bungonia National Park website, there are about 200 "wild caves" in the park, many of which are open for experienced cavers to explore.
Many of the caves are vertical, requiring the use of either ladders or ropes.
In 2003, a cadet officer from the Royal Military College Duntroon was trapped in the Bungonia State Recreation Area.
The 31-year-old Victorian was part of a group of cadets undergoing adventure training.
The man, an experienced caver, slipped and fell four metres into the cave, dislocating his shoulder.
Goulburn Police Rescue and the NSW Ambulance Special Casualty Access team were hampered in their rescue attempt by the difficult conditions, but brought him to the surface after about 10 hours.
- with Rachel Olding
Weatherzone.com.au is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.