FLOODED THAI CAVE -11 BOYS TRAPPED RESCUE IN PROGRESS
Four more Thai boys have been freed from the flooded Thai cave – bringing the total number rescued to eight.
The second phase of the treacherous operation to rescue the youth football team began on Monday after four boys were saved on Sunday, having spent more than a fortnight underground.
It was confirmed at 11am BST that a fifth boy had been freed. An hour later, two more were reportedly taken to safety. And an eighth was seen on a stretcher at around 1pm BST.
They spent nine days unaccounted for inside the cave, before British divers found the emaciated and dishevelled group huddling on a muddy bank.
Three more cave diving experts from the UK have flown to Thailand to help with the mission, currently underway, to extract a trapped soccer team from a waterlogged cave.
The group, made up of some of the world’s best cave divers, warned there was no guarantee of the mission’s success but deemed authorities had run out of other options.
The reinforcements, who traveled to the extensive cave system in the mountains in the country’s north at the request of the Thai government, brought the total number of British Cave Rescue Council members assisting on the ground to 10.
There are seven specialist cave divers, including Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, who found the boys on Monday night after they had been missing for ten days.
There are also three non-divers working in a support role.
They were called in after the Governor of Chiang Mai Province, Narongsak Osottanakor, announced a reassessment of the situation concluded the boys and their coach could not stay in the cave throughout the monsoon season and would need to be extracted.
The group planned to assign two divers, including Navy divers from the United States and Thailand and cave divers from Australia, to each child.
Pumping efforts over the past week and a dry spell meant the water in the cave system’s first three chambers had dropped enough to make part of the journey walk-able, but the return of flooding rain meant the rescue mission needed to begin.
In a statement, the BCRC said other options to rescue the boys had been exhausted.
“Pumping out enough water to let the boys wade out has run out of time as heavy rain is imminent,” the statement said.
“The rain will reverse the remarkable progress made over the last few days.”
Drilling into the cave from above had also proved too difficult and waiting out the four-month monsoon season was not an option.
“Drilling equipment cannot get through the dense foliage, there is no exact known surveyed target to direct the drill; drilling could destabilize rocks above the children or block passages and increase flooding,” the BCRC said.
“Sitting out the monsoon on a small, crumbling ledge with reduced oxygen and the risk of it severely flooding during the monsoon rains is no longer considered to be a viable option.”
It meant that assisting the children to dive out of the cave was the “least risky” option.
“What appears to have begun this morning is an extremely difficult and very hazardous operation,” BCRC said.
“It is expected to take days to complete in spite of the best endeavors of some of the foremost cave divers in the world there can be no guarantee of success.”