After nine days of advanced international search efforts, a boys soccer team and their coach were found in a flooded cave in Thailand. The 12 players — aged 11 to 16 — and their coach had journeyed into the cave while exploring a mountain range in the north of Thailand (despite warnings to avoid the area during the current monsoon season) when heavy rains flooded the area, trapping them more than two kilometers into the cave and one kilometer underground.
The Thai Navy SEALs announced Monday morning that a British diving team had located the boys and made contact with them. All thirteen people were were alive and in relatively good health, although severely weakened and malnourished from nine days without food. The Navy released video on their Facebook page of the divers finding the boys.
The families and public who had been holding vigils since the boys went missing celebrated at the news of finding all 13 team members alive and well, but it may be months before they get to see them again. Part of why locating the party was so difficult — and took the expertise of at least six different countries — is because they are in a cave that is only accessible through a winding pathway of narrow pitch-black underwater tunnels. The dive was difficult for the experts who found the boys; it’s almost impossible to bring them out the same way.
According to the Navy, they are currently working on taking care of the boys in the cave and building up their health and strength before attempting what could be a dangerous and taxing rescue. They are currently being looked after by several members of the Navy SEALs, one of whom is a doctor and another who is a nurse. The boys and coach were also given access to a telephone line to speak with loved ones.
“Now we have given food to the boys, starting with food that is easy to digest and provides high energy,” Thai Navy Seal Chief Rear Admiral Aphakorn Yoo-kongkaew said in a press conference, “We have taken care of those boys following the doctor’s recommendation. So do not worry, we will take care of them with our best. We will bring all of them with safety. We are now planning how to do so.”
An estimated 10,000 litres of water an hour being pumped out of the cave. Levels inside are said to fall by 1cm an hour… but heavy rains are forecast for the days ahead. #thamluangcave #thamluang #ถ้ำหลวง #13ชีวิตติดถ้ำ pic.twitter.com/F9ghL4guWh
— Howard Johnson (@Howardrjohnson) July 3, 2018
“Planning” is the key here. Attempts to drain the flooded passage and locate an alternative escape route have proven unfruitful and the tunnels are too narrow for even experienced divers to carry the boys through. Currently, the best option is to build up the boys’ strength and teach them how to scuba dive so they can be guided through the tunnels while swimming independently. Experts say the idea still isn’t ideal since they don’t know the boys’ swimming capabilities and the operation would be lengthy and dangerous.
A representative from the Thai Navy informed the media that authorities are supplying the trapped boys with four months worth of supplies, suggesting the wait could be a long one. It is possible they may have to hold off on rescue until the area’s monsoon season ends in October. These boys might not be seeing the light of day for a while.
For now, the good news is that they are all safe, in good health and being looked after attentively by authorities. Two Navy doctors have committed to staying with the group even if the heavy rains make it impossible to leave before the rescue. The area is also bonding together to help out authorities where they can. The local boy and girl scouts are collecting light bulbs for divers to use in the cave, volunteers are offering free massages at the rescue site and groups of women are keeping everyone fed.
Hopefully all this manpower can figure out an alternative rescue solution to bring these boys home sooner rather than later.
Thailand is a story of survival. But it’s also a story of incredible human collective action.
Just think – so many countries came together to help these boys. What a wonderful thing.
— James Longman (@JamesAALongman) July 3, 2018