Thai boys 'could be in cave for months'

Lynette Rowe
July 4, 2018

Now that the missing Thai soccer team has been found, the next step is determining how to get the boys and the coach safely out of a partly flooded cave in northern Thailand.

A team of Thai Navy SEAL divers - including a medic - have joined them on the bank, while rescuers pour over evacuation plans from the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand before heavy rains return and raise the water level.

Rescue teams are now evaluating how best to get the boys and coach out of the caves. He assured reporters that rescuers "won't bring them out until we find a totally safe way", the Bangkok Post reported.

In a video posted by the Thai navy on its Facebook page, the boys are seen huddled on a rock in mud-stained T-shirts and shorts surrounded by water.

"We called this "mission impossible" because it rained every day ... but with our determination and equipment we fought nature", Narongsak said. Heavy rains sent a significant amount a water into the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, trapping them.

One of the toughest stretches for the divers came as they neared so-called Pattaya Beach - an elevated mound in the cave complex - where it was hoped the boys had sought refuge.

Now that they've been located, are they safe?

The boys, all members of a youth soccer team aged 11 to 16, and their assistant coach, aged 25, were found late Monday by rescue divers after a dramatic search lasting more than a week in the mountainous province of Chiang Rai.

"Although water levels have dropped", says the British Cave Rescue Council, the volunteer divers' small charity organization, "the diving conditions remain hard 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". That could take as long as months, however, given that Thailand's rainy season typically lasts through October.

Relatives keeping vigil at the mouth of the cave since the ordeal began rejoiced at the news that their boys and their coach had been found.

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While efforts to pump out floodwaters are continuing, it's clear that some areas of the sprawling cavern can not be drained, said Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, a member of Thailand's ruling military junta. They completed the hard journey to find Pattaya Beach flooded, so swam on and found the boys about 400m away. "And now you're looking at taking people who have no experience or very little experience with diving and putting them into a complete blackout situation, where they have to rely on a regulator and the tanks with them to breathe", Anmar Mirza, a cave rescue expert, told CNN.

"You are very strong", one of the rescuers says to them in English. They must be able to use diving gear.

Much-needed food and medical supplies - including high-calorie gels and paracetamol - reached the group on Tuesday as rescuers prepared for a prolonged extraction operation.

The British Cave Rescue Council said the boys are "located in a relatively small space and this would make any potential drilling attempt as a means of rescue very hard".

He added that two Thai navy doctors have volunteered to stay with them for months, if needed.

Doctors are preparing to swim into the cave to check the team's conditions and find any serious injuries. "We will take care of them until they can move".

Edd Sorenson of International Cave Rescue and Recovery told the Guardian it would be "unbelievably dangerous" for untrained divers to try and swim to freedom.

About 1,000 volunteers and rescuers, including a US military team, had established a base camp near the mouth of the cave.

He said other efforts will continue, such as draining water from the cave and exploring the mountainside for shafts and other entrances to the caverns below.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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