Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Thailand weighs rescue options as football team gets aid

Thailand weighs rescue options as football team gets aid

The effort drew worldwide help and has riveted Thailand.

Thai navy SEAL commander Rear Adm. Arpakorn Yookongkaew said a team of seven SEALs, including medics, are with the boys and looking after them. They were discovered after they went missing more than a week ago.

Thai Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, a member of the ruling military junta, flagged the prospect of the boys using diving gear while being guided by professional divers. Even if the boys were taught diving skills, taking them out of the cave would still be risky.

"Compared to what Rick and John are normally doing, this is extremely easy diving, the only complication was the flow of the water", he said, referring to the current.

It was particularly hard for the rescuers to locate them because the cave system consists of dark, narrow bends that sometimes fit only one person, Ben Reymenants, one of the divers involved in the search, told Sky News. "If something happens midway, it could be life-threatening".

Robert Charles Harper, left, and diver Richard William Stanton, middle, at Tham Luang Nang Non in Chiang Rai last week.

"Cave diving is a very technical skill and it's extremely unsafe, especially for an untrained diver", Anmar Mirza, coordinator of the US National Cave Rescue Commission, told AFP.

Anupong said the boys would be brought out via the same complicated route through which their rescuers entered, and he conceded that if something went awry, it could be disastrous. A doctor, a nurse, and Navy SEALs are now keeping them company.

"We found that most of the boys are in [stable] condition", said Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn.

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Diver Mr Reymenants said that "Nnone of them can swim or dive so that's going to be a real challenge". "Maybe some of the boys have injuries or light injuries and would be categorised as yellow condition. I think it won't take more than a week", he told Israel's Channel 10 news on Tuesday.

"I'm so relieved, though I still don't have the chance to see him".

The team had been missing since June 23, when they did not return to their homes from practice.

In the 5-minute navy video, the boys were seen wearing their soccer uniforms and were calm, curious and polite.

"The first plan is to reduce the water level and get them out but if we can't, we will have a backup plan", he added.

"How many of you? 13?" "You are very strong, very strong".

But come Sunday, the weather cleared and rescuers immediately used water pumping machines to clear the chamber in order to establish a base deep inside the cave.

The boys repeatedly tell them, in Thai, that they're hungry and need food.

Then the boy breaks into simple English, saying, "Eat, eat, eat", to which another voice responds in Thai that he already told that to the rescuer.

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The SEALs' Facebook page said that since Sunday night, the divers had reached a bend where the kilometer-long (half-mile-long) passage splits in two directions.

Meanwhile, army trucks, doctors, rescue workers and journalists continued to pour into the site. He said that they described the 3-hour round-trip dive to the chamber where the group is still trapped as "a bit gnarly".

Rescue workers were scouring the hills above the cave network for other possible entry points or avenues to drill down to the trapped footballers, but the small size of the cave where they have found refuge could make that unsafe.

Rescuers have appealed for 15 small and extra small full face masks, fuelling speculation that divers are preparing to lead them to safety through the flooded stretch of the cave.

"It would be very disconcerting for them to face that situation", he said.

"These are challenging conditions and there's a lot of consideration for safety as well as, the environment outside is contributing to the environment inside", said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jessica Tait, part of a 30-member U.S. military team assisting in the search operation, referring to the rain that has been flooding the cave.

One of the rescue options being considered is to teach the youngsters how to dive. An official Australian group has followed a USA military team, British cave experts, Chinese lifesaving responders and several other volunteer groups from various countries.

He said other efforts will continue, such as draining water from the cave and exploring the mountainside for shafts and other entrances to the caverns below.

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