Lost man survives 34 days in caves

Lost man survives 34 days in caves

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Wednesday 19 December 2018

12:01AM GMT 24 Jan 2005

A man who spent 34 days lost in the cold, dark caves of an abandoned mushroom plantation told rescuers that he survived by eating bits of wood and soil, licking rusted iron and sipping from an underground source of water.

Jean-Luc Josuat-Vergès, 48, staved off the cold by wrapping himself in plastic he found in the cave during what police called his “unbelievable experience”.

He was rescued after an exhaustive search of the three-mile labyrinth at Madiran in Hautes Pyrenees, south-western France. Police were alerted by three schoolboys who found his abandoned 4×4 vehicle.

Mr Josuat-Vergès, a father of two who works in an adult training centre, was apparently suffering from depression when he drove to the caves on Dec 18.

Clutching a bottle of whisky and wishing to be alone, he began to explore the caverns but soon became lost in the dark and was unable to find a route back to the surface.

After a call by the schoolboys, 20 police officers searched for 90 minutes before finding a bearded Mr Josuat-Vergès weak and thin. After a check-up in hospital he was allowed to go home.

Later Mr Josuat-Vergès said: “I knew that if I wasn’t found soon I would die.”

Relatives had also started to believe that they would never see him alive again. One of his sons said: “Christmas was a bit of a nightmare.”

His wife Ginou said: “At last I could see him, stroke his cheek and tell him there were plenty of do-it-yourself chores in need of his attention.”

Doctors said that finding water underground probably helped to save Mr Josuat-Vergès’s life. Prof Ian Gilmore, professor of medicine at Liverpool University, said: “You can go a long time without food, provided you have water.”

Finding the plastic would have been vital in preventing death from hypothermia.

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