French divers offer to help Thai cave rescue

Lynette Rowe
July 6, 2018

People are working tirelessly to rescue them from the cave, but in the interim they're bringing them food and supplies.

Currently, 20 pumps are draining flood waters from the cave.

Huge volumes of water are being pumped out of the cave complex each day, but the narrow, winding passages inside the cave are still flooded, meaning diving through the murky water is now the only way in and out.

A recent medical assessment of the Thai boys trapped in a cave has found it may be too risky to attempt an escape due to their weak health, with two of the boys and the coach suffering with exhaustion from malnutrition.

While efforts to pump out floodwaters are continuing, some Thai officials have indicated that heavy rains forecast for this weekend could force them to decide the boys should swim and dive out using the same complicated route of narrow passageways through which their rescuers entered.

In the most recent video, a navy SEAL is shown treating minor cuts on the feet and legs of the boys with antibiotic ointment.

Tham Luang operation commander, and the former Chiang Rai governor, Narongsak Osotthanakorn, said: "They may have some belief that their technique is effective for ground water drainage, but anything that is not in the plan must be discussed with us first".

"All 13 may not come out at the same time". "They don't need to be brought out as a team", Osatanakorn said.

"It seems that's fraught with perils because cave diving's not like normal open water diving", British Cave Rescue Council Vice Chairman Bill Whitehouse told Al Jazeera.

Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen led the party, and were the first to discover the boys after diving through a chamber to where they were perched above the water.

"What we worry most is the weather", the governor told reporters.

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"If there are risks, then we will not be extracting them".

A family member looks at a photo near Tham Luang cave complex, as members of under-16 soccer team and their coach have been found alive. However, not all of them can swim and some areas of the cave network where they disappeared after going exploring following a soccer game on June 23 are still flooded all the way to the ceiling. The idea is to get some headroom so the boys would not be reliant on scuba apparatus for a long stretch and could keep their heads above water.

"I have no doubt that if the government of the country puts in everything and makes all possible efforts, this rescue will be successful", Mario Sepulveda, one of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days in 2010, said in a video sent to AFP meant for the group. Video of the boys from inside the cave surfaced recently, showing each of them smiling, flashing peace signs and telling the world they're in good health.

Despite being trapped inside the cave for almost two weeks without any food, the teenagers could still be seen smiling in videos released by Thai Navy SEAL.

Rescue crews found them on July 2.

Thai authorities said they are working to install an Internet cable to the cave so that the parents of the boys can talk to their children.

Tham Chanthawong, the aunt of the 25-year old coach Ekapol Chanthawong, said that prior to becoming a football coach, her nephew spent a decade as a saffron-robed Buddhist monk. "Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most unsafe situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy", Anmar Mirza, the US National Cave Rescue Commission coordinator, was quoted as saying by AP.

"We are talking kilometers of transport under the water with zero visibility", said Claus Rasmusen, a certified cave diving instructor based in Thailand who has been helping Thai SEAL team with logistics.

Thai authorities say the focus is now building up the boys' physical and mental strength after an ordeal that has left them emaciated.

"Nobody will teach anyone a full cave course, but trying to get them comfortable with masks, with the breathing, (is) completely different", he said. The team remained there Tuesday, no longer alone and with food, water and medicine, as authorities tried to figure out how to extract them safely.

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