This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 15 September, 2019
Advertisement

Eight down, five to go as rescue efforts to resume tomorrow in Thai cave

Yesterday, four members of the Wild Boars team were successfully brought out from the cave.

Rescuers work near the cave where the young soccer team members and their coach were trapped in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Rescuers work near the cave where the young soccer team members and their coach were trapped in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated Jul 9th 2018, 10:31 PM

ELITE DIVERS HAULED four more young footballers out of a flooded Thai cave today, authorities said, bringing to eight the number saved in a stunning rescue mission but still leaving five others trapped.

“Hooyah,” the Thai Navy SEALs, who have played a crucial role in the against-the-odds operation, said in a Facebook post as they announced that a total of eight members of the “Wild Boars” football team had been rescued on Sunday and today.

Thais have been fixated on the crisis, hoping desperately for the safe return of the 12 boys and their 25-year-old football coach, after they ventured into the Tham Luang cave complex after practice and became trapped by rising waters more than a fortnight ago.

The extraction of the four today followed a similar pattern to the previous day, with the youngsters emerging in quick succession just before nightfall after navigating a treacherous escape route of more than four kilometres that included extremely narrow and flooded tunnels.

Although the rescued eight were all presumed to be the boys, aged between 11 and 16, authorities did not reveal their identities nor confirm whether the coach remained inside the cave.

THAILAND-CHIANG RAI-RESCUE The first two boys are transferred to the field hospital after being brought out near the cave Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Asked if the remaining five would be shuttled out together, rescue operations chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said it was up to the divers whose meticulous plans, including stashing extra oxygen tanks along the route, are “set for four people, if we bring five we have to change the plan”.

In a late-night press conference he also delivered a message from Thai premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a gruff former general:

“The Prime Minister wants this to be a lesson, this should not happen again in Thailand,” Narongsak said.

The saga has dominated global headlines, with the team spending nine days unaccounted for inside the cave, before British divers found them — emaciated and dishevelled — huddling on a muddy bank above the flooding.

Authorities then struggled to determine the best way to save the “Wild Boars”, with the group stuck on a shelf above the floodwaters in pitch darkness.

Among the ideas were drilling an escape route through the mountain, or leaving them for months until the monsoon season ended and the flooding subsided.

But with oxygen levels inside dropping to dangerous lows and the prospect of heavy rains flooding the area completely, authorities decided they had to move quickly and take the group out through the water-filled tunnels.

Deadly dangers

Narongsak described yesterday’s initial rescue bid as “D-Day” when it was launched, and there were fears that any one of many potential pitfalls could prove deadly.

Among these were that none of the boys had scuba diving experience, and that they could easily panic while swimming underwater across twisted passageways in darkness.

Thailand Cave Search Undated photo released via the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page. Thai and international teams have joined forces to save the trapped youngsters Source: AP/PA Images

Dozens of foreign divers and other experts from around the world were brought in to help the rescue effort, working alongside the Thai Navy SEALs.

But 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.

The first successes yesterday offered hope of a fairytale ending to the ordeal.

Rescue chief Narongsak yesterday described their journey out, escorted by the elite divers, as “smooth”.

Crucially, round-the-clock pumping to ease some of the flooding paid off and threatened heavy rains did not arrive.

That led an upbeat Narongsak to promise more “good news” this afternoon that materialised a few hours later with the emergence of the other four.

But although the eight were rescued, there were concerns they may have contracted an illness while in the cave.

Narongsak said after the first four boys were rescued that they would be quarantined “for a while because we are concerned about infections”.

And rain could still re-emerge as a threat for the remaining five, particularly if there are complications that could delay the extraction further.

Authorities have repeatedly said the rain could re-flood crucial parts of the cave complex that have been drained and make the escape route much harder or even impossible to navigate.

Weather forecasters warned heavy rain could hit the area through the week.

Premier Prayut visited the rescue base tonight to deliver his congratulations to all those involved, but also to offer a note of caution.

“Everyone should be proud. (But) the mission is not over yet,” Prayut said.

© – AFP, 2018

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS (41)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel