3 students found dead in flooded Indonesian cave

A search-and-rescue operation taking place at Lele cave in West Java, Indonesia. PHOTO: SAR_NASIONAL/INSTAGRAM

BANDUNG, INDONESIA (AFP) - Three university students were found dead in a cave in Indonesia after they were trapped inside by flood waters, officials said on Monday (Dec 23).

A search-and-rescue operation launched on Sunday retrieved five people alive from Lele cave in West Java after heavy rain hit the area and flooded it, authorities said.

The victims "were trapped inside the cave for quite a while before the team managed to evacuate them", said local search-and-rescue agency spokeswoman Seni Wulandari.

She added it took an hour for the rescue team to make it into the cave, which is 30 metres below ground level.

The students - part of a university nature club - went there to train in basic caving.

A senior member of the club who helped with the evacuation, Mr Ari Alfian, said the weather was normal when the students entered the cave, but an unexpected heavy downpour hit the area.

"Water entered the cave like a waterfall. Initially only five students were inside the cave, including the victims," Mr Alfian told AFP on Monday.

"Another three came in to rescue them as the bad weather arrived. They were all trapped, but only five managed to survive."

The rainy season started in late November and several regions in Indonesia, including West Java, have been hit by bad weather and storms in the past two weeks.

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