French teens rescued after getting lost in the Paris catacombs

The skeletal remains of some 6m Parisians line the walls of the 250km underground tunnel network

French teens rescued after getting lost in the Paris catacombs

[Flickr/nils gore]

Two teenagers in Paris were rescued from a three-day ordeal after getting lost in the pitch-black, bone-lined catacombs under the city’s streets.

The two teens, aged 16 and 17, were taken to a nearby hospital where they were treated for hypothermia. The pair were found after the alarm was raised, with fire fighters leading the search scouring the subterranean network for four hours.

“It was thanks to the dogs that we found them,” a spokesman for the Paris fire service told AFP after the successful end to the manhunt.

Winding for 250km under the streets of Paris, the catacombs form a ghastly maze, lined with the skeletal remains of thousands of Parisians.

Only a tiny proportion of the network is open to public visitors, with the vast majority cut off from view since 1955. Despite laws banning entrance to forbidden passages, some French teenagers and urban explorers see touring the expanse as a rite of passage, with illegal raves held at secret entrance points.

The catacombs were created at the end of the 18th century, when outbreaks of plague across Paris were linked to overstuffed cemeteries; the bones of an estimated 6m Parisians were relocated to the network, stacked in indiscriminate piles and arranged in artistic designs.

As deep as 20m underground and with the ambient temperature throughout the occasionally flooded network just 15c, the teenagers are expected to make a full recovery after their escapades.

A spokesperson for Paris-Museums, which is charged with maintaining the catacombs as a tourist site, reassured the public that the main route is well signposted and that no visitors had even gotten lost in that part.

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