Northern Ireland

Mourne Mountains: Ambulances in Army cadets rescue

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Media captionThe children had to be stretchered off the mountains after the weather deteriorated

Seventeen children had to be stretchered off the Mourne Mountains after an emergency involving a group of Army cadets from England.

A group of about 70 people - 10 of them adults - from the Cleveland Army Cadets Force were in the County Down mountains when the weather became treacherous.

An emergency operation was launched on Wednesday morning to assist the group, which included children aged 12 to 17.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance said 16 people had hypothermia.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The rescue effort involved the coastguard, ambulance service, police and mountain rescue

Others had minor injuries.

In a statement on Facebook, the Cleveland Army Cadets Force said that "all cadets have now been recovered from the mountains and accounted for".

The alarm was raised at 11:13 BST on Wednesday. Coastguard, ambulance and helicopter crews were called to the scene.

Medical staff treated several of the children on the mountain.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) declared a major incident at 13:21 BST.

Ten accident and emergency crews, a hazardous area response team and Mountain Rescue went to the scene.

Image copyright Coastguard
Image caption Conditions on the mountain had been very difficult

The emergency team set up a base at Annalong Community Hall to treat those who were hurt.

Dr Nigel Ruddell, medical director for the NIAS, said he called a major incident after it became clear that large number of teenagers were involved and several were having difficulty with the cold.

"We have been able to manage thanks to pool working by all the emergency services," he said.

"At this stage, there are no reports of anybody with serious or life threatening injuries. The injuries seem to be fairly minor and the young people seem in good spirits."

Dr Ruddell said conditions on the mountain had been very difficult and that the group leaders had done a good job in protecting the teenagers.

Ken Johnston, chief press officer with the Ministry of Defence, Northern Ireland, said: "We had a number of young people from England attending an Army Cadet Force camp in Northern Ireland.

"This morning they were in the Mourne Mountains when that atrocious weather swept in. A decision was taken to withdraw as the weather and rain and wind continued."

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Some of those in the group are believed to be suffering from hypothermia and leg injuries

He described the rescue operation as "remarkable".

"We are exceptionally grateful," he said.

"We are assessing the children, but we understand it is fairly minor injuries, ankle injuries and some cold injuries."

Image caption One of those injured is taken by stretcher from the scene

The coastguard said the PSNI and ambulance service contacted them requesting assistance after receiving "several reports that a large number of people were in difficulty after being caught out in inclement weather".

Colin McGrath, an SDLP MLA, tweeted: "Major emergency incident in the Mournes with helicopter, coastguard, medical and ambulance responding.

Image caption Some of those who were rescued were given foil blankets to keep them warm

"Please God all will be ok."

Police have advised motorists to avoid Head Road in Annalong due to a build-up of traffic. Drivers should seek an alternative route.

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