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Injured man trapped in German cave rescued after 12 days

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[June 19, 2014]  BERCHTESGADEN Germany (Reuters) - An injured explorer trapped in Germany's deepest cave system for 12 days was finally brought to the surface on Thursday after a complex rescue operation, Bavaria's mountain rescue service said.

Johann Westhauser, a 52-year old speleologist, injured his head in a rock fall on June 8 and was unable to climb back to the surface on his own as the ascent involved steep shafts and narrow tunnels.

The rescue took so long to complete because the injured man could not stand and the ascent involves steep and narrow horizontal and vertical shafts.

"He left the cave at 11.44 a.m. (0944 GMT)," said a rescue service spokesman, adding that medics were looking after him.

Some 70 rescue workers were in the cave to help recover the man while further teams, along with doctors, were waiting above ground, the local mountain rescue service said.

The man was one of the researchers who discovered the Riesending or "massive thing" cave system. Located near Bavaria's border with Austria, it is 1,148 meters deep and has tunnels, shafts and caves extending over 19.2 kilometers.

It normally takes 12 hours to climb from the site of the accident to the surface.

(Reporting by Marcus Nagle; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Stephen Brown)

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