SYDNEY (AFP) - Three young men stuck in a crevasse on Australian tourist attraction Uluru, the world's largest monolith, have been rescued after a challenging hours-long operation that stretched late into the night, authorities said on Tuesday (Sept 20).
Rescuers battled strong winds and abseiled 320m to reach the stranded Australians, all aged 22, after they reportedly wandered off a well-worn path while climbing the iconic symbol of the Outback, also known as Ayers Rock, on Monday.
The rescuers were flown by helicopter to the top of the giant red rock that rises 348m above the desert - to start the complex process of extracting the trio after police confirmed they were uninjured and had enough water.
"Due to the fading light and lack of anchors, the rescue effort was slow and methodical," Northern Territory Emergency Service volunteer Alan Leahy said in a statement.
"We abseiled about 320m to the stranded men. There were very strong winds that kept on tangling the rope," Mr Leahy added, saying that rescuers reached the men at about 11.30pm (10.00pm Monday Singapore time) and over several hours moved them one at a time to the base of the rock.
The seven rescuers only had head torches to guide them to the men as darkness fell, NT Emergency Service's southern regional manager Claire Barker said.
"Where they were situated was very steep and we couldn't get them to climb up from where they were, they were actually stuck," Ms Barker told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"So our guys had to start from the top of the rock to where they were and pluck them off, now while that sounds very easy, it's actually very arduous and very difficult."
The rescue came a year after a 27-year-old tourist, reportedly Taiwanese, strayed off the official route on the huge formation and plunged up to 20m into a narrow gap, sustaining multiple injuries. He was taken to hospital after a lengthy rescue attempt.
Climbing Uluru, in the remote Outback in central Australia, is seen by many tourists as a must-do on their visit to Australia.
But they do so against the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners the Anangu, to whom the site is sacred.
Tackling Uluru's sandstone slopes is not an easy exercise and there have been several deaths on the rock over the years.