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American among tourists found living in Indian cave during coronavirus lockdown

Local police said the six spent nearly four weeks in the cave after running out of money for a hotel.
A group of tourists in India has been discovered living a cave in Rishikesh.
A group of tourists in India has been discovered living in a cave in Rishikesh.Laxman Jhula Police Department

Six tourists, including one American, have been rescued after hiding from the coronavirus pandemic in a cave in India for nearly a month, local officials said on Wednesday.

The tourists were staying at a hotel in the town of Muni Ki Reti in the northern state of Uttarakhand but decamped to the cave on the banks of the Ganges when they could no longer afford their rooms, the Laxman Jhula Police Department said in a statement to NBC News.

They lived in the cave since March 24, the same day India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the virus.

After being picked up by police on Saturday, the group was tested for coronavirus and all results came back negative, officials said. But as a precaution, the six were being required to quarantine at a spiritual sanctuary in the area.

The American — identified by police as Michael Falcone, 38, from Connecticut — has been in the country since November, police said. The other tourists were from Ukraine, Turkey, France and Nepal.

Tourists stuck in the country do not risk overstaying their visitors' visas, which have been all extended to May 3 as part of the nationwide lockdown.

There are between 40 and 50 American citizens scheduled to leave Uttarakhand on Wednesday with the support of the U.S. Embassy, Dheeraj Singh Gabriyal, district magistrate of the Pauri Garhwal district, told NBC News in a telephone interview. However, the American found in the cave will not be able to join them.

"Right now they have to finish their 14 (day) quarantine period first," Gabriyal said. Once that's complete, arrangements can be made to repatriate them.

The State Department official told NBC News that it is aware of the situation but wouldn't comment on the particulars of the case due to privacy concerns.