Thai rescue teams arrange a water pumping system at the entrance of a flooded cave.
PHOTO BY THAI ARMY
THAILAND – In a daring rescue, an elite team of divers on Sunday guided to safety the first four of 12 Thai boys trapped in a network of caves.
The young footballers and their rescuers swam in pitch darkness through flooded chambers and passages barely wide enough for one person, and emerged from the cave where they were trapped in the last 15 days.
“The hole is really small, I have to take off my air tank to crawl through it,” a 25-year-old Thai Navy Seal, who declined to be named, told Reuters before the rescue attempt. “As I do, I feel the edges of the hole on both my back and chest.”
They passed through four kilometres of passageways and were rushed to a hospital in Chiang Rai.
The mission was then paused for at least 10 hours after oxygen tanks stashed along the route in the cave system were depleted.
Chiang Rai province acting governor Narongsak Osatanakorn told crowds of gathered media on Sunday that the rescue would resume Monday.
The boys and their football coach had wandered into the cave system near Chiang Rai before rising waters left them trapped in one chamber.
The team, named the Wild Boars, wanted to explore the Tham Luang cave system after football practice on June 23.
Heavy rain forced them to go deeper inside the cave as floodwaters rose. They were found nine days later by two British divers.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16 survived by drinking water dripping from stalactites.
Rescuers have been teaching the boys how to use underwater breathing apparatus so they can safely navigate the submerged parts of the passageway to the surface.
The boys appear to have remained in high spirits, writing notes to worried parents that have been carried to the surface by divers.
One boy, who was celebrating his 16th birthday when the team entered the cave, wrote: “I love you, Dad, Mum and my sister. You don’t need to be worried about me.”
The rescue of the remaining boys could take another two to four days, depending on conditions in the cave, a Thai official said.
According to Major General Chalongchai Chaiyakam, the rescue work will take two to four days, “which all may change depending on weather and water conditions”. GAD/Expat Media
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