Two Spanish potholers died this weekend and a third is in hospital following an accident on a mountainside near the town of Ouarzazate (Morocco) in which one of the three initially suffered a fall at an altitude of around 2,800 metres. (thespainreport.com, April 6)
What is most troubling about this incident is that while one of the men died shortly thereafter the fall, the second was left to linger for six and a half days until eventually succumbing to his injuries.
It appears rescue workers were aware of the injured man’s location and condition, but were hamstrung by local inexperience and a refusal to accept outside assistance. The Andalusian Cavers Association (FAE) volunteered 16 rescue workers and material, but their offer was refused. Similarly, a Spanish Civil Guard rescue helicopter was denied overflight permission until it was too late.
While the third caver was admitted to a hospital, the bodies of the other two were recovered on Monday, April 6th.
Here’s hoping that the tough lessons from this tragic event are learned by all parties. Humanitarian rescue should transcend national boundaries and the bureaucratic delays.