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The plight of the 12 boys along with their soccer coach trapped in the Thai cave has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world. Authorities have struggled to devise a plan to extract the boys and their coach through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways that in some places are completely flooded.
Rescue efforts have begun for 12 boys and their football coach who have been trapped in the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand for more than two weeks, the head of the mission said on Sunday.
Rescue workers take cover from the rain, outside Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach are trapped inside a flooded cave, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand. (Image: Reuters)
Heavy Rains Near Tham Luang Nang Caves | Northern Thailand saw heavy downpour late on Saturday, worsening the already tough weather conditions. The rain could potentially set back progress made over the last week to drain the Tham Luang cave complex, Reuters reported. As rescuers fight a “war with water and time”, the community is trying to remain hopeful about a safe rescue.
Israeli Technology Reportedly Used | As expert divers and volunteers from across the world joined the rescue efforts, technical support also came from many corners. Israeli technology was reportedly used to locate the missing boys who were trapped inside the caves. Maxtech Networks CEO Uzi Hanuni told Times of Israel that their system provided voice, data and video link to the boys.
Medical Team Deployed | Thirteen fully equipped medical teams have been deployed just outside the Tham Luang Nang caves. 13 helicopters and ambulance have also been stationed to facilitate the rescue operation. According to Reuters, medical staff working in the mission have said that their first assessments will focus on the boy’s breathing, signs of hypothermia and an airborne lung infection known as ‘cave disease’ which is caused by bat and bird droppings and can be fatal if it is untreated and spreads to other parts of the body. “We have set up 13 teams for each of the children,” Major General Pramote Imwattana of the Army Medical Department in charge of the medical operation at the Tham Luang cave complex, told Reuters.
Reuters reported that monks dressed in orange robes prayed and chanted at a shrine near the cave. An assistant told Reuters that the ceremony was to “open up” the cave mouth to allow for a secure evacuation of the trapped boys. (Image: Reuters)
“Double Positive” Says Instructor | Ivan Katadzic, a Danish diving instructor who has been ferrying oxygen tanks into the cave, told Reuters after a dive on Friday that he was “double positive” about the mission because the water level had dropped considerably.
Race Against Time | “Everything is a race against time,” Kamolchai Kotcha, an official of the forest park, told Reuters. He added that his team would camp out on the hill to try and finish its work before the rain came.
In this undated photo released by Royal Thai Navy on Saturday, July 7, Thai rescue teams arrange water pumping system at the entrance to a flooded cave complex where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. The local governor in charge of the mission to rescue them said on Saturday that cooperating weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created appropriate conditions for evacuation, but that they won’t last if it rains again. (Image: Royal Thai Navy via AP)
The death of a former Thai Navy SEAL diver on Friday underscored the many risks that the operation entails. Saman Kunan, who ran out of oxygen, died after delivering oxygen tanks to the cave. But rescuers are trying to move past the tragic loss. “We lost one man, but we still have faith to carry out our work,” Navy Seal commander Apakorn Yookongkaew told AFP, adding that rescuers have “a limited time” to extract the boys.
A Daunting Task Ahead | The chief of mission described the problems that could arise because of monsoon rains. Heavy rains could push the water to rise to the shelf where the children are squatting, reducing the area to “less than 10 square meters,” he was quoted as saying in AFP. On Saturday morning, he had said that the boys were not prepared to scuba dive, a daunting task that would involve them navigating through the uneven and winding cave structures. However after 12 hours, he seemed to have changed his assessment after the water levels inside the cave were managed thanks to round-the-clock drainage mechanism installed by the rescuers. (Image: Reuters)
Rescuers have put in place an air pipe to ensure that oxygen levels don’t fall in the cave where the boys are holed up. The chief of the rescue operation detailed the complexity of the situation. “When we’re in a confined space if the oxygen drops to 12 percent the human body starts to slow down and people can fall unconscious,” Narongsak told AFP. He went on to explain, “There’s also carbon dioxide. If the oxygen levels are down and the carbon dioxide levels are up, then you can get too much carbon dioxide in your blood.”
“Conditions Perfect to Evacuate”| The water level in the cave has receded and rescuers are seeing this as a window of opportunity. “Now and in the next three or four days, the conditions are perfect (for evacuation) in terms of the water, the weather and the boys’ health,” Narongsak Osottanakorn the chief of the rescue operation told AFP. He added that they had to make a “clear decision” on what they wanted to do.
Earlier in the week, India offered “technical expertise” to Bangkok. The Thai Ambassador to India, Chutintorn Gongsakdi, had thanked India for extending its support towards the operation.”Thank you Ambassador Bishnoi. Thank you India,” tweeted Ambassador Gongsakdi on Monday.
Thank you Ambassador Bishnoi. Thank you India. pic.twitter.com/udTmpUYebb
— Ambassador Sam (@Chutintorn_Sam) July 3, 2018
Monsoon Threat Looms Large | Volunteers and rescuers are worried that the impending monsoon might hamper the rescue efforts.The monsoon which typically starts in July lasts till October. The caves, in which the boys are stranded function as a basin when the area receives heavy rainfall.The boys were trapped inside the interiors of the caves 14 days ago, after a sudden flash flood hit the cave system.
More than 100 chimneys are being drilled into the mountainside in a frantic bid to reach a Thai youth football team trapped in a cave complex below, the head of the rescue mission said Saturday. The unprecedented rescue effort is attempting to establish new ways to extract the boys from above, if the underground chambers flood and it is deemed too risky to evacuate the team by diving out through the submerged passageways. “Some (of the chimneys) are as deep as 400 metres… but they still cannot find their location yet,” Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters, adding the mission lacked the technology “to pinpoint where they are staying”. “We estimate that (they) are 600 metres down, but we don’t know the (exact) target,” he said. On the question of dipping oxygen levels in the cave, he said rescuers had managed to establish a line to pump in fresh air and had also withdrawn non-essential workers from chamber three — where the rescue base is — to preserve levels inside the cave. The “Wild Boar” team have been trapped inside the Tham Luang cave complex for two weeks.
The trapped Thai boys have sent out written messages for their family and friends assuring them of their well-being. It is the first communication, since attempts to establish a phone line inside the cave failed earlier this week. The handwritten notes include requests for food, including fried chicken. “Teacher, don’t give us lots of homework!” one of the boys had written. The team’s coach also offered his “apologies” to the parents in a separate letter. The Thai navy SEAL shared the picture of the notes on their Facebook page.
“Buddy Dive” has been pitched in as another possibility to evacuate the group of 13 trapped in a cave in northern Thailand. An experienced adult diver would swim with each boy to bring them out to safety, the CNN reported. Thai divers would lead the mission and US divers would preposition oxygen tanks, a US official said. The rescue team also includes divers and workers from Australia, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe and Asia. Thai military officials have been briefed, the source said, and the country’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was to be told about the plan Saturday morning. The rescue mission could begin as soon as the weekend, but no decision has been made whether to proceed, the US official said.
The coach Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, is the assistant coach of the Wild Boars soccer team, and was hiking with the players through the cave complex when they became stranded. His Facebook page features dozens of images of him cycling with members of the team, and videos and photos of him with the boys, New York Times reported. One of the pictures from his Facebook page has gone viral with calls for “Stay Strong” to the group of 13, though its unclear if all of the 12 boys in the photo are trapped in the cave. Chantawong appears on the left.
The Monk Football Coach | Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, coach of the trapped soccer team and the only adult with them had spent years as a Buddhist monk, according to his family. Chantawong lives with his ailing grandmother and aunt, Amporn Sriwichaiis. “He is a really good boy,” his aunt said last week. “He is very helpful. He loves soccer.” In a note handed to a navy personnel, Chantawong had given a message to his aunt and grandmother telling them not to worry and that he was Another aunt, Tham Chantawong, told The Associated Press that his training as a monk had probably helped the group survive. “He could meditate up to an hour,” she told the news agency. “It has definitely helped him and probably helps the boys to stay calm.”
There are four different options available to the rescuers, according to various news outlets. The water can be pumped out so that the boys can walk their way out or they can be trained in scuba diving so that they undertake 5 hour long journey out to safety. The other two options are to drill into the cave and bring them out or to wait for the flood waters to recede.
With more rains expected and oxygen levels dropping inside the cave, making the situation worrisome. The rescue operation suffered its first casualty on Friday when a 38-years-old volunteer,Saman Gunan, lost consciousness as he was bringing oxygen tanks into the cave because he ran out of air underwater, the New York Times reported.could flood up the cave for up to four months.
The rescue mission has been getting worldwide attention, with scores of rescue experts and military personnel from different countries offering help. They are helping to bring food and medical assistance to the boys and the coach, and advising the Royal Thai Navy on how best to get them out. Elon Musk announced on Friday that he would be sending engineers from SpaceX and the Boring Company to help.
Rescuers are focussing on draining the cave and teaching the boys – some of whom are as young as 11 and not competent swimmers – to attempt dives that would challenge expert cavers. The death of a former Thai Navy SEAL working in the flooded cave on Friday has shaken the rescue mission, and forecasts for more rain could undermine the draining of the cave, forcing officials to consider other options. Thanes’ engineers are working with the army to explore an area they believe to be the back end of the cave, chiselling away fragile limestone rocks that he said could be just hundreds of metres from where the boys are trapped. “Originally we were exploring it as a way to bring supplies to the children from the back end of the cave, but now it could become more,” said Thanes. Chalongchai Chaiyakum, a senior Thai army officer, said that one team travelled some 300 metres down a shaft on the hill on Thursday until they reached a dead end. He said that up to 200 people are exploring the hill to try to find a workable shaft.
Alternative Rescue Paths Being Explored | Rescue teams thrashed through dense forest hundreds of metres above a cave complex on Friday, searching for an alternative way to extract 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped inside for nearly two weeks. Their work above the Tham Luang cave near Thailand’s northern border with Myanmar took on added urgency as forecasts for rain threatened a plan to bring the boys back through cramped, water-logged passageways to the cave entrance. “We want to find the way down. I believe we are close,” Thanes Weerasiri, president of the Engineering Institute of Thailand, told Reuters at a makeshift camp for volunteers and media near the cave. Helicopters buzzed overhead before flying to the dense blanket of green hills above the cave to help look for an alternate extraction route.
An air line has been installed to the cave where the group has been trapped for nearly two weeks in a chamber in the Tham Luang cave complex, the BBC reported. The group had ventured in while the cave was dry but rain then flooded it. Earlier, a former Thai navy diver died on his way out of the caves after delivering air tanks to those trapped. Speaking to reporters on Friday, the governor of the Chiang Rai region, where the cave is situated, said the boys had enough strength to walk but could not swim to safety. Narongsak Osotthanakorn said the health of most of the boys had “improved to normal”, and that divers were continuing to teach diving and breathing techniques. When asked if a rescue attempt would be made overnight if it started to rain, he said: “No, the boys can’t dive at this time.”