Rescuers at the scene in the Mourne Mountains. Photo: Mourne MRT

Rescuers at the scene in the Mourne Mountains. Photo: Mourne MRT

A major rescue operation was launched after a large group of Army cadets got into difficulties on the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland.

Three rescue helicopters flew to the scene to support Mourne Mountain Rescue Team in its operation to bring 63 young people and 10 adults to safety from the rain-lashed hills.

The rescue team was alerted about 11.40am on Wednesday when the group called for help from the Annalong Valley.

A team spokesperson said: “Initial reports including location, were conflicting and suggested a group of 20 in the Leitrim Lodge area.

“The group however totalled 63 youths who were on an expedition and caught out by deteriorating weather. The location was in the lower reaches of the Annalong Valley in close proximity to the forest and track.”

The ambulance service declared a major incident and the Mourne team was joined by the police search and rescue team and North West Search and Rescue.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s helicopters from Prestwick in Scotland and Caernarfon in Wales flew to the area, along with an Irish Coast Guard helicopter.

The group was assessed on the mountain and 56 of them were driven or guided off the hill to a nearby road. Seven were stretchered from the site, suffering from hypothermia and minor injuries.

The Annalong Valley and the Mourne Mountains. Photo: Paul McIlroy CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Annalong Valley and the Mourne Mountains. Photo: Paul McIlroy CC-BY-SA-2.0

The rescue operation involved 63 youngsters from the Middlesbrough area, aged between 12 and 17, along with their adult leaders. The Newcastle, Bangor and Kilkeel Coastguard Rescue Teams also took part in the rescue.

The UK Coastguard reported that all the casualties had been accounted for by 4.45pm and safely recovered from the mountain. A spokesperson said: “A big thank you to all the emergency services on scene and behind the scenes who assisted with this large-scale incident to bring everyone to safety.”

Eighteen members of Mourne Mountain Rescue Team were involved in the callout.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “We are extremely grateful.”

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