Monsoon rains may force Thai cave rescue attempt this week
Rescue of boys should be sped up before downpours in next few days, says minister.
Thai authorities are racing against the clock to rescue 12 boys and their football coach trapped in a cave, saying they may attempt to evacuate the group before a fresh round of monsoon rains expected this week.
The group had been missing since finishing football practice on 23 June, and were found alive late on Monday after a nine-day search.
A Thai navy Seal team on site sent out a request for donations of small full-face diving masks after it was found that the masks they had were too big for the children, fuelling speculation that a rescue attempt was imminent. A full-face mask is easier to use for inexperienced divers, and it has been reported that none of the children can swim or dive, which greatly increases the risk involved.
“As rain is forecast in the next few days, the evacuation must speed up. Diving gear will be used. If the water rises, the task will be difficult. We must bring the kids out before then,” said Anupong Paojinda, the interior minister, according to the Bangkok Post. “Diving is not easy. Those who have never done it will find it difficult, because there are narrow passages in the cave. They must be able to use diving gear. If the gear is lost at any moment, it can be dangerous to life.”
The children were found in a weakened state but none were critically injured, according to officials. Doctors have visited them and workers have delivered energy gels to the group in an attempt to boost their strength. Meals of pork and rice in sealed containers were being prepared. The group is between 800 metres and 1km below the surface, and roughly 2km (1.24 miles) inside the cave.
Rescue experts have suggested the safest option would be to supply the children and their coach with food and medical supplies and wait for the water level to subside, which could take weeks or even months. But the expected heavy rainfall could complicate the equation.
Even evacuating the boys using diving gear could take up to five to seven days, and experienced divers have said missteps underwater with untrained divers could be fatal for the boys and the rescuers.
“The best option is to leave them where they are and stabilise their environment to make sure the core ingredients are met,” said Peter Wolf, the national director of the Cave Divers Association of Australia. “Given the environment is pretty wet, to keep them warm and dry, provide them with clean drinking water, food, and clean air.”
British cave divers Rick Stanton (L), Robert Charlie Harper (3-R) and John Volanthen (R). Photograph: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA
Rescue workers were scouring the hills above the cave network for other possible entry points or avenues to drill down to the trapped footballers.
The decision about when and how any rescue attempt is made lies ultimately with the Thai military. The Thai navy captain Anand Surawan has previously said: “[We will] prepare to send additional food to be sustained for at least four months and train all 13 to dive while continuing to drain the water.”
An underground headquarters has been set up stocked with dive gear, oxygen tanks, medical supplies and food, which will be transported to the boys and their coach.
A team of two British divers found the team on a mud bank inside the cave about two metres above the water level.
“How many of you?” one rescuer with a British accent asked. Told 13, he replied: “Brilliant!”
Astonishing video shows Thai soccer team found alive after going missing in a cave for ten days.
— ABC News (@ABC) July 2, 2018