Nineteen people have been rescued from a cave in south central Kentucky, officials say. Seventeen cavers and two police officers who tried to help them had been trapped by floodwaters in Hidden River Cave, WBKO reports.
The Hart County Emergency Management director told WPSD that 21 people went into the cave around 10 a.m. on Thursday, and four managed to escape before the others.
The Associated Press reports those initially trapped were college students who were exploring when torrential rains struck.
Kentucky Emergency Management tweeted that everyone is accounted for and safe.
"All you can do is walk through it and keep pushing on through," one of the rescuers, David Morgan, told WAVE 3 News. "You get back there and go as quick as you can to find them."
The cave and the adjacent American Cave Museum draw thousands of tourists every year, according to the museum's website. The cave used to provide the city of Horse Cave with drinking water and hydroelectricity, but the cave became polluted and closed in 1943. The American Cave Conservation Association began the process of restoring Hidden River Cave in the late '80s and still runs it today.
The cave and museum have tried to attract more visitors with a zipline and rappelling, the Bowling Green Daily News reports. The paper adds:
"The two things have appeared to have been working as visitorship has increased. Cave stewards also have been raising funds to try to expand the length of the cave tour."