Emergency services have been mobilised after a group of army cadets got into difficulties while training in mountains in Northern Ireland.
On Wednesday afternoon, more than 60 cadets were caught in the Mourne Mountains, County Down, in weather conditions that one local councillor called “woeful”. The UK coastguard said up to 20 people were suffering from hypothermia.
The Ministry of Defence praised the emergency services for their rapid response in rescuing the cadets. An MoD spokesman said: “A fairly extensive support operation swung in and we are extremely grateful.”
The coastguard said 63 children aged 12 to 17 were being evacuated along with 10 adults.
The cadets, from Middlesbrough, were at their annual camp in Northern Ireland, carrying out adventure training and going on cultural visits.
A coastguard spokesman said: “The incident is ongoing but all members of the group have been accounted for and are believed to be out of immediate danger.” He said the majority were being walked down to safety.
A Mourne Mountain rescue team spokesman said the situation was under control. He added: “At present, the members of the group are being guided by the team to nearby road access. NIAS [Northern Ireland ambulance service] are in attendance to provide any medical support required.”
Some of the group required assistance for minor injuries after slipping on stones.
The coastguard said it had been contacted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and ambulance service just before midday.
Newcastle, Bangor and Kilkeel coastguard rescue teams, and the UK Coastguard search and rescue helicopters based at Caernarfon and Prestwick attended the scene, as did the Irish coastguard rescue 116 helicopter, Mourne Mountain rescue team, PSNI and NIAS.
Local representatives in the tourist spot south of Belfast popular with walkers said the weather had been unseasonably stormy and cold. Colin McGrath, the local Social Democratic and Labour party assembly member, said there had been “woeful weather”.
Independent unionist councillor Henry Reilly said conditions in the Mournes had been “unbelievably bad for August”. He added: “People are in winter coats, so if it’s like that in the low land what’s it like in the high land?”