Russian media erupted with alarming headlines on Thursday after a tourist group made up of two adults and eight children, of ages between eight and 12, descended into the Syany cave system – and only the guide resurfaced.
Located near the town of Domodedovo south-east of Moscow, the massive Syany caves are a remnant of abandoned limestone quarries. The labyrinth of twisted underground tunnels spans some 20 kilometers, becoming a favorite of amateur spelunkers and a stuff of urban legends.
Inside Syany cave system. © Russia’s Emergencies Ministry
According to the initial plan, the tourists – who entered the caves at 11 am – were to cover a specific route through the caves and be back above ground at 7 pm. But it didn’t happen, and radio contact with the group was lost long before that.
It later emerged that the children, accompanied by a father – but not the guide – were trying to find their way out of the tunnels for hours, after the clearly unregistered tour went wrong. The terrifying prospect of kids vanishing in the dark has immediately seen social media drawing parallels with German sci-fi series
“Dark,” a Netflix hit about children disappearing after wandering into an underground time portal.
The situation has triggered a major rescue effort, with 38 rescuers and nine units of specialized equipment sent to the caves by the Russian Emergencies Ministry. When the rescuers arrived on site they discovered the group’s guide near the entrance to the quarries, who was reportedly in a state of shock, with kids nowhere to be seen.
From this point, the events are shrouded in mystery. Some reports have claimed that the guide didn’t even enter the caves and said he would be waiting outside, before sending the children on a perilous journey in a company of an adult who lacked the necessary experience.
Others claimed that the entire group got lost underground, and after several failed attempts to return to the marked trail, the guide left the children with a grownup and went to search for an exit on his own to call for help. Despite the stress, the man could relay the location of the kids to the rescuers, and they were soon saved.
Yet another report suggested that the group wasn’t staying put but tried to get out of the quarries on their own, eventually stumbling upon the rescue team.
Fortunately, the children were feeling fine and didn’t require medical or psychological help. But while the kids’ adventure might have had a happy ending, it was not so for the hapless guide.
It soon turned out that the trip to the caves was not properly registered with the authorities. The guide has been delivered to the police station for questioning and is going to be held accountable for putting the lives of children at risk.
Unfortunately for spelunkers who got intrigued by the disappearing children mystery, Moscow Region Governor Andrey Vorobyev has then ordered all the known entrances to the Syany caves sealed, and set up CCTV cameras to monitor them so that no one enters.
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