Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rescue efforts begin for boys, coach trapped in Thai cave



Rescue efforts begin for boys, coach trapped in Thai cave

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Thai medics are seen as rescue operations continue for the 12 boys and their football team coach trapped in Tham Luang cave at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park. ye aung thu/afp

Rescue efforts begin for boys, coach trapped in Thai cave

Elite divers on Sunday began the extremely dangerous operation to extract 12 boys and their football coach who have been trapped in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand for more than two weeks, as looming monsoon rains threatened the rescue effort.

The “Wild Boars” team has been stuck in a cramped chamber several kilometres (miles) inside the Tham Luang cave complex since June 23, when they went in after football practice and were hemmed in by rising waters.

Their plight has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, as authorities struggled to devise a plan to get the boys and their coach out through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways that in some places are completely flooded.

“Today is the D-day. The boys are ready to face any challenges,” rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters near the cave site as weather forecasters warned of more monsoon rains late on Sunday that would cause further flooding in the cave.

Narongsak said the first boy was expected to be brought out of the cave by around 9:00 pm (1400 GMT) after navigating the planned six-hour journey.

However another operation commander said the operation would take two to three days to complete, with the boys and their coach being brought out one-by-one, and that the weather conditions would play a role in determining how long it would take.

\The boys, aged from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were found dishevelled and hungry by British cave diving specialists nine days after they ventured in.

But initial euphoria over finding the boys alive quickly turned into deep anxiety as rescuers raced to find a way to get them out, with Narongsak at one point dubbing the effort “Mission Impossible”.

The death of a former Thai Navy Seal diver who ran out of oxygen in the cave on Friday underscored the danger of the journey even for adept professionals.

After a short deluge of rain on Saturday night and with more bad weather forecast, Narongsak on Sunday said authorities had to act immediately.

“There is no other day that we are more ready than today,” he said. “Otherwise we will lose the opportunity.”

Between the operating base manned by Thai Navy Seals inside the cave and the trapped boys are twisting, turning cave passageways with torrents of water gushing through.

The water in the cave is muddy and unclear, with one diver comparing it to a cafe latte. Ropes have been installed to help guide the boys through the darkness.

Narongsak said Sunday two divers would escort each of the boys out of the cave.

Authorities had looked at many different ways to save the boys and their coach.

One early potential plan was to leave them there for months until the monsoon season ended and the floods subsided completely, but that idea was scrapped over concerns about falling oxygen levels and waters rising too high.

More than 100 exploratory holes were also bored – some shallow, but the longest 400 metres deep – into the mountainside in an attempt to open a second evacuation route and avoid forcing the boys into the dangerous dive.

American technology entrepreneur Elon Musk even deployed engineers from his private space exploration firm SpaceX and Boring Co to help.

Meanwhile rescuers fed a kilometres-long air pipe into the cave to restore oxygen levels in the chamber where the team was sheltering with medics and divers.

On Saturday, Thai Navy SEALS published touching notes scrawled by the trapped footballers to their families, who had been waiting for them agonisingly close by outside the cave entrance.

The boys urged relatives “not to worry” and asked for their favourite food once they were safely evacuated, in notes handed to divers.

In one, Pheerapat, nicknamed “Night”, whose 16th birthday the group were celebrating in the cave when they became stuck on June 23, said: “I love you, Dad, Mum and my sister. You don’t need to be worried about me.”

The coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, who many Thais have criticised for leading the boys into the cave, also apologised.

“To all the parents, all the kids are still fine. I promise to take the very best care of the kids,” he said in a note given to divers on Friday.

“Thank you for all the moral support and I apologise to the parents.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Covid in Kingdom hits ‘critical point’

    The Covid-19 situation in Cambodia has reached a critical point, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned, as cases surge with two more deaths and 265 infections reported over the weekend. On March 28 alone, the Ministry of Health recorded 86 Covid-19 cases linked to the February 20

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia set for large-scale vaccination campaign as Covid spreads

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed all provincial authorities to get ready for a large-scale vaccination campaign, with at least one million doses to be administered per month. “We will roll out at least one million doses. The vaccines we have purchased and received as

  • Covid-19 spreads in Kingdom, infects more children

    The Ministry of Health on March 28 reported another 86 Covid-19 cases linked to the February 20 community outbreak. Among them, two are Chinese and the rest are Cambodian. Preah Sihanouk province recorded the most cases at 43, followed by the capital at 25; three each in Tbong Khmum, Svay