Rescue in Thailand

Video from local Thai news shows rescue efforts in motion.

If you’ve been watching the news over the past couple of weeks, you’re bound to have heard about the missing boys’ soccer team and their coach in Chiang Rai, Thailand. After a long and strenuous search through a vast complex of caves, which became flooded after a series of harsh storms, the boys and the coach were found alive and relatively well in an air pocket after ten days of exploration through the deep, dark void.

The problem now is getting them out. The two British divers who found them say that it’s a three-hour dive through the cave system to get to the team, and getting all 13 of them out of the cave is going to be an even bigger task.

The boys are in touch with family, and in seemingly good spirits. Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP

At the current time, pumps are being used in an attempt to lower the water levels in the caves, and the ultimate hope is that this method can be used to get the flooding down to a point where the rapid, yet steady currents can help safely float the boys out of the cave using life vests. This would be the optimal situation, although recent developments are showing that the boys reported hearing dogs barking, which means that there could be a chimney hole in the cave that can be expanded in order to get them to the surface in a dryer way.

Doi Nang Non, site of the cave rescue, from the much calmer outside world. Photo by mtsteph under license by Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

In the meantime, there’s only one course of action. Reports are showing that the British rescue divers who found the boys, in conjunction with the Royal Thai Navy, are working to train the boys in diving. There are inherent risks in this, the most obvious being that a three-hour technical dive through the polluted waters of Northern Thailand isn’t something that the most hardcore of divers would want to do. The other is the strong current. The storms and flooding in the region would be a great obstacle for emaciated boys who have been stuck in a cave for weeks, but it may be a last-resort option. Either way, this isn’t a basic open-water training course. These boys would need skills that many take years to develop while being trained under harsh circumstances in a dark cave.

To assist in the potential dive, professionals are setting up a series of ropes to help guide the team should this be the option that the rescuers choose to move forward with. Even then, there are some doubts.

Rescue workers move scuba tanks though the cave system. Photo: Royal Thai Navy

When speaking to CNN, former US Navy SEAL Cade Courtley said “if you are going to ask an 11-year-old to make a dive that a former Navy SEAL specialized in diving would have a challenge making, some of the kids are going to die.” According to him, using dive equipment to bring the soccer players to the surface is not the right course of action.

Until then, maintenance is the plan. The boys have been able to communicate with their families via tablets and cameras brought down to the cave, and they appear in good spirits. A doctor who spent the night with them treated cuts and bruises, and dry clothes and foil blankets have been taken to the location of the fun trek which sadly turned into a rescue mission.

According to locals Tham Luang Cave, where the boys are trapped, is a popular location for teen adventurers; however, as always, it only takes one bad day to change that for the community. One boy’s grandfather said “I’ll never let him go near a cave again.”

But until then, the name of the game is “rescue.”

  • Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor