Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Foreign divers join search for Thai kids in cave

Foreign divers join search for Thai kids in cave

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Rescue personnel are seen at the opening of the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park, in Chiang Rai, on Wednesday. LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP

Foreign divers join search for Thai kids in cave

A TEAM of US military personnel and British divers joined rescue efforts at a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for five days as heavy overnight rains hampered the search.

Flood waters seeped into a second chamber of the Tham Luang cave and forced some of the rescue divers to turn back, according to officials.

The children, aged between 11 and 16, went into the cave Saturday and were trapped when heavy rains clogged the main entrance.

Around 1,000 Navy SEAL divers, police, soldiers, border guards and officials have been mobilised for the around-the-clock rescue in a remote and mountainous part of Chiang Rai province near the Laos and Myanmar borders.

A team of American military personnel from the US Pacific Command, including para-rescue and survival specialists, arrived at the site overnight to help rescue operations, according to embassy spokeswoman Jillian Bonnardeaux.

“Operators are trained in personnel recovery tactics and techniques and procedures,” she said.

“Essentially what they’re looking at is assessing with the Thai authorities the potential courses of action and complementing the efforts underway.”

Three British cave diving experts made a second attempt at entering the cave through chimneys on Thursday after they tried to go in through the main entrance on the day before but were turned around by rushing flood waters.

Sniffer dogs

At nearly 10 kilometres, Tham Luang cave is one of the longest in Thailand and has the reputation of being one of the toughest, even among experienced divers. It frequently floods during Thailand’s monsoon season between July and November, rendering some of its narrow passages difficult to pass through.

There are several air pockets within the complex and the kids are believed to be in a large chamber in the middle of the cave. But fast-running and murky flood waters have prevented rescue divers from reaching them and heavy rains continue to seep into the cave through narrow openings on the sides and through the main entrance.

“The water is like café latte, you can’t see anything, and there’s a very strong flow which doesn’t make it easy,” Ben Reymenants, owner of Blue Label Diving in Thailand, said from Chiang Rai where he was assisting with the search.

High-pressure water pumps shipped in from Bangkok were set up but water levels continued to rise on Thursday.

Officials said they planned to drill a hole into the cave on Friday and dispatched drones to find an ideal site for the hole.

“It’s difficult to drill vertically, if you go up the mountain and drill there are high risks [of collapse] so we might drill from the the side to improve our chances of success,” Suttisak Soralump, a geotechnical expert from Kasetsart University said.

Border guards scoured the site for new openings into the cave and the boys’ families brought clothing belonging to the kids to help sniffer dogs find the team.

Exhausted relatives have been camped out near the cave’s entrance for days desperately awaiting news on the missing team and their 25-year-old coach.

A forecaster in Chiang Mai said rains were expected to ease Thursday afternoon and that visibility could improve as the fog lifts.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM to vet NY holiday dates

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance submitted a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to formally set a five-day national holiday from August 17-21 to make up for the Khmer New Year holiday in April that was postponed. Finance minister Aun Pornmoniroth sent

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Snaring may spawn diseases

    The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that snaring of animals has become a crisis that poses a serious risk to wildlife in Southeast Asia and could spawn the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. Its July 9 report entitled Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Kingdom produces PPE gear

    Medical supplies from Cambodia have been donated to member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to assist in the fight against Covid-19, said an ADB report published on July 9. The report stated that the supplies were donated as a response to global efforts to

  • Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

    At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations. Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70

  • ‘Single Portal’ integrated registration system welcomes nearly 50 firms

    Forty-seven companies have successfully registered via a newly-launched information technology e-business registration platform as of the end of the second week of this month, Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Phan Phalla said. Six ministries and state-run institutions have been integrated into a

  • Battambang artist brings giant animals to life

    The giant reptile’s gaping mouth appears ready to consume its latest victim. It stands taller than a person and is incredibly life-like with authentic colours, a long spiky tail and detailed scales adorning its entire body. If it wasn’t 13m long, you may

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the