Boys Trapped In A Thai Cave Are Alive

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MAE SAI, THAILAND |

After 10 days trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand, and after an enormous search effort that had transfixed Thailand, the missing 12 boys and their soccer coach had finally been found in Tham Luang Cave on Monday.

In a brief video filmed by a British diver, which was posted on the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook Page, the boys and their coach seemed in surprisingly good condition. Some boys sat and some stood as they spoke with the rescuers.

 

 

 Video Credit: Thai Navy SEAL

 

The initial relief that greeted the dramatic discovery of the trapped Thai soccer team has given way to concern, as rescuers begin the difficult task of attempting to free the 12 boys and their coach from deep inside the flooded cave.

Video shared by the Thai Navy SEALs shows the boys, who were found alive by British divers in the early hours of Monday evening, huddled together on a small patch of dry ground, surrounded by water in a cramped, pitch–black chamber.

The two British divers who were the first to reach the boys were John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, both experts on cave rescues, according to Bill Whitehouse, the vice chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council. “It is estimated that the boys are around two kilometres (1.2 miles) into the cave and somewhere between 800 meters to one kilometre (0.6 miles) below the surface,” said Bill, whose organisation has helped spearhead the search of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system in northern Thailand.

 

Boys, who are between ages 11 and 16 and are members of the Wild Boars soccer team, had been exploring the cave network with their soccer coach on June 23, when heavy seasonal rains flooded the cave’s entrance, forcing the group further and further into the labyrinth of tunnels in search of high ground

 

But as the rescue operation enters into the next phase, options for rescuers appear limited. The area in which the group remains stranded is only accessible via a narrow flooded channel and attempts to pump water from the cave, or find a natural opening in the roof of the chamber, have so far proved unsuccessful.

The next challenge will be getting the soccer team out of the flooded cave in their weakened condition and without scuba training. The boys range in age from 11 to 16, and their coach is 25.

British divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen have established a reputation as being among the greatest cave rescuers on the planet. © SWNS

One of the divers explained that the cave was flooded and that it would take some time to get them out. But he assured them that other divers would soon be bringing food and supplies.

“Many people are coming,” the diver, John Volanthen, said. “We are the first.”

Because the boys and their coach went to the cave after soccer practice, it is unlikely they would have had much, if any, food with them. But given how long they survived and the condition in which they were found, health experts say it is certain they had drinkable water, whether from within the cave or brought with them.

“Food is not the priority,” Dr. Lavonas said. “It’s getting them to a safe place. The human body is pretty good at dealing with short–term starvation.”

Kham Phromthep, whose 13–year–old son, Duangpetch Phromthep, was among the boys trapped in the cave, said he was ecstatic when he saw his son in the video.

 

There is an assessment of electronic equipment that may be suitable to pin–point the underground location of the boys and coach with a greater degree of accuracy. The necessary equipment will be sent to Thailand if electronic experts agree on the feasibility

 

NOT OUT YET

Capt. Akanand Surawan, a commander with the Royal Thai Navy, said supplying the group with four months’ worth of food and teaching the boys how to scuba dive is the next phase of the plan to bring them home.

But with rain continuing to fall, rising water levels could force rescuers to act sooner rather than later.

“We believe that there is only a short break in the monsoon and all feasible options for the rescue of the boys are being considered,” Whitehouse said in a statement.

“Although water levels have dropped, the diving conditions remain difficult and any attempt to dive the boys and their coach out will not be taken lightly because there are significant technical challenges and risks to consider,” said Whitehouse.

Diving is considered among the least preferable escape methods, with experts cautioning that any attempt to traverse the narrow passage ways will be fraught with difficulties and potential complications, especially if the children can’t swim.

“Worst case scenario is they have to dive them out,” said Pat Moret, a rescue consultant told reporters on ground.

“It won’t be anything like diving that most people recognise. It will be diving in what is effectively muddy water, possibly fast flowing, with no sense of direction,” Moret said. “You can’t tell what’s up, down, sideways.”

 

BATTLING THE RAINS

The boys, who are between ages 11 and 16 and are members of the Wild Boars soccer team, had been exploring the cave network with their soccer coach on June 23, when heavy seasonal rains flooded the cave’s entrance, forcing the group further and further into the labyrinth of tunnels in search of high ground.

Their sudden disappearance sparked a desperate nine–day race against time as hundreds of volunteers and specialist international search teams battled against the heavy rains to locate the missing group.

 

The area in which the group remains stranded is only accessible via a narrow flooded channel and attempts to pump water from the cave, or find a natural opening in the roof of the chamber, have so far proved unsuccessful. The next challenge will be getting the soccer team out of the flooded cave in their weakened condition and without scuba training

 

Narongsak Osottanakorn, governor of the local region Chiang Rai, told reporters that they are planning how to send medical team inside the cave to check their health and movement.

Surawan, a commander with the Royal Thai Navy, said additional divers will accompany the doctor and nurse.

Rescuers will also pump air into the cave to improve conditions.

Rescue teams have been trying to drain the cave for several days, and at one point were pumping 1.6 million liters of water an hour out of it. However, continuous rains have frustrated attempts to clear the passageways, with the water remaining at a steady level.

Rescue workers used a water pumping machine at the entrance of the cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand. © Getty Images

A final rescue option could see the boys lifted through the roof of the cave to safety, either through a natural opening or a drilled entry point.

During an attempted rescue mission last week, trekkers found a hidden opening deep in the jungle, giving them another way to enter the cave system. The natural chimney was least 1.5 meters in diameter and at least 22 meters (72 feet) deep, north of the cave opening.

Though the opening did not connect to area where the boys were discovered, now that the boys’ location is known, rescue efforts can focus on finding other, potentially hidden openings.

“They are also located in a relatively small space and this would make any potential drilling attempt as a means of rescue very difficult,” said Whitehouse.

“Back here in the UK, there is an assessment of electronic equipment that may be suitable to pin–point the underground location of the boys and coach with a greater degree of accuracy than the published surveys,” added Whitehouse.

“The necessary equipment will be sent to Thailand if electronic experts agree on the feasibility that it will operate over such depths.” ■

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