Cave rescue: Remaining trapped Thai boys wait to escape
[July 09 2018]
Cave divers in Thailand are poised to restart the
high-risk operation to extract the remaining eight boys and their
football coach from a vast flooded cave system.
Four boys were brought safely out of the cave on
But the mission was paused overnight for air tanks to
Rescuers decided to go ahead with the hazardous
operation because of fears of rising waters. The group have been trapped
since 23 June.
Activity at the dive site early on Monday suggests
that the operation to free the remaining members of the group may be
under way or about to resume.
At least seven ambulances have driven towards the cave
Rescuers took advantage of a break in the rain on
Sunday to launch the mission earlier than some expected.
The first stage of the mission ran "smoothly" and the
rescued boys were in "good health", according to the Thai authorities.
But with heavy rainfall overnight and more forecast
for the coming days, divers will need to work quickly to free those
still trapped. On Saturday, Narongsak Osottanakorn, governor of the
Chiang Rai province, said that teams had a three to four-day window to
carry out their operation.
How are the boys being moved?
A team of 90 expert divers - 40 from Thailand and 50
from overseas - has been working in the cave system.
They have been guiding the boys through darkness and
submerged passageways towards the mouth of the Tham Luang cave system.
Getting to and from where the boys are has been an
exhausting round trip, even for the experienced divers.
The process includes a mixture of walking, wading,
climbing and diving along guide ropes already in place.
Wearing full-face masks, which are easier for novice
divers than traditional respirators, each boy is being accompanied by
two divers, who also carry his air supply.
The toughest part is about halfway out at a section
named "T-Junction", which is so tight the divers have to take off their
air tanks to get through.
Beyond that a cavern - called Chamber 3 - has been
turned into a forward base for the divers.
There the boys can rest before making the last, easier
walk out to the entrance. They are then taken to hospital in Chiang Rai.
In an indication of how dangerous the journey can be,
a former Thai navy diver died in the caves on Friday. Saman Gunan was
returning from a mission to provide the group with air tanks when he ran
out of oxygen.
He lost consciousness and could not be revived. His
colleagues said they would "not let the sacrifice of our friend go to
Sense of remaining unease
BBC's Nick Beake at the scene
This is a hugely high-profile rescue attempt and
Thailand knows the world is watching. It has embarked on a dangerous
option but believes it's the best for bringing the group out alive.
It has assembled a team of internationally renowned
divers and so far their expertise has brought four boys - thought to be
the weakest - back to their families.
But the relief of those mums and dads will be tempered
by the knowledge that nine other families face an anxious wait for the
turn of their loved ones to be shepherded through the narrow and murky
corridors of the Tham Luang cave complex.
As one diving expert put it to me, when underwater
cave rescues go wrong they go wrong in a big way. So despite this
promising start, there is a sense of unease here in Chiang Rai. But the
overriding impression from the rescuers is a clear focus and unshakable
resolve to finish the job.
Who are the boys and their coach?
Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11 (Nickname: Titan) - started
playing football aged seven
Panumas Sangdee, 13 (Nickname: Mig), wrote to his
parents: "The Navy Seals are taking good care of me"
Duganpet Promtep, 13 (Nickname: Dom) - captain of the
Wild Boars, reportedly scouted by several Thai professional clubs
Somepong Jaiwong, 13 (nickname: Pong) - reportedly
dreams of playing for the Thai national team
Mongkol Booneiam, 13 (nickname: Mark) - described by
his teacher as a "very respectful and good child"
Nattawut Takamrong, 14 (nickname: Tern) - told his
parents not to worry about him
Ekarat Wongsukchan, 14 (nickname: Bew) - promised his
mother he would help her at the shop once he was rescued
Adul Sam-on, 14 - member of a volleyball team that
came second in a North Thailand-wide tournament
Prajak Sutham, 15 (nickname: Note) - described by
family friends as a "smart, quiet guy"
Pipat Pho, 15 (nickname: Nick) - wrote in his letter
he wanted his parents to take him for barbecued food once rescued
Pornchai Kamluang, 16 (nickname: Tee) - told his
parents "don't worry, I'm very happy"
Peerapat Sompiangjai, 17 (nickname: Night) - it was
his birthday the day the boys went missing, and his parents have told
him they are still waiting to hold his birthday party
Assistant coach Ekapol Chantawong (nickname Ake), 25 -
apologised in his letter to the parents, but they replied that they did
not blame him
How did the group get there?
The boys were found inside the cave by British rescue
divers on Monday, about 4km (2.5 miles) from the cave mouth.
Aged between 11 and 17, they belong to a football club
called the Wild Boars, and became trapped during an excursion with their
It took nine days to find them in the underground
network's dark depths.
Race against the rain
Officials had originally thought the group might have
to stay where they were until the rainy season ended - and that could
have meant months underground.
They had also been exploring whether they could drill
down into the cave, as well as scouring the mountainside for another way
But with the rainy season just beginning, it has
become clear that the flooding which originally trapped the boys will
only get worse in the coming days.
Rescuers have been desperately pumping water out of
the cave, and Mr Narongsak said on Sunday that water levels inside were
at their lowest levels so far.
Courtesy : BBC News
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