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Dive teams save four more boys from Thai cave after 17 days

By Sheetal Sukhija, Asia Pacific News
10 Jul 2018, 02:02 GMT+10

BANGKOK, Thailand - Continuing their brave rescue mission to save the team of young soccer players and their coach, who have been trapped inside Thailand’s fourth longest cave for 17 days, the dive team managed to bring four more boys to safety on the second day.

The rescue operation was launched at 10 am on Sunday amid treacherous conditions.

However, the operation proceeded faster than expected on the first day at the end of which, four of the boys had been rescued and nine awaited inside the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave.

On Monday, as the operation resumed, dive teams in Thailand managed to rescue four more boys from the flooded jungle cave.

As four more boys and their adult soccer coach remained trapped in the cavern inside, authorities expressed confidence that they would managed to rescue the remaining too.

Initially, after the first four boys were brought out of the cave on Sunday, rescue teams planning to take a 10- to 20-hour pause.

The wait period would ensure that the cave is replenished with oxygen and it would also give the team of 18 divers, who have been leading the boys on a perilous journey to safety, a chance to rest.

However, the operation restarted a few hours earlier that planning as rescuers were hoping to save all the rest before a monsoon rainstorm that is forecast for the area strikes, and possibly floods the cave again.

As the second day of the rescue mission got underway, Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn predicted that all 12 of the boys on the soccer team and the coach will be safely brought out of the labyrinth.

He told reporters, “I insist that all 13 will be safe and sound.”

Six hours after the rescue effort restarted on Monday, divers made their way out with the fifth rescued boys in tow.

According to reports, over the next three hours, the dive team emerged out with three other boys.

In a Facebook post, the Thai Navy SEALs confirmed that eight members of the Wild Boar soccer team had rescued and said, "Hooyah.”

Neither of the boys who have been rescued so far have been named and immediately after being rescued, they were all put in ambulances, driven to waiting helicopters.

The boy were then taken to an old airport in Chiang Rai, and then transported by ambulance to the same hospital where their first four rescued teammates are being treated.

On Sunday, Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre coordinating the rescue, said at a press briefing, “Today was the best situation – in terms of kids’ health, water and our rescue readiness. Four have been [brought] out from the cave site, four have been rescued. We consider that a great success.”

He added that the operation proceeded hours faster than expected and said, “It has been our masterpiece work.”

Osatanakorn said that 90 divers, including 50 foreigners and 40 Thais are involved in the operation on Sunday. 

According to Osatanakorn, the first boy emerged from the cave at 5.40pm local time (1140 BST), followed by a second 10 to 12 minutes later.”

He added, “After that, a third and fourth at 7.40pm and 7.50pm.”

Commenting on Sunday’s operation, Osatanakorn said that after completing the 3.2km journey through the muddy, jagged cave, the divers turned and hugged the boys, who emerged wearing full-face scuba masks.

He also confirmed that all four boys had safely reached a hospital in the nearest major city, Chiang Rai. 

How it all started?

On June 23, after the group was reported missing, a search operation was launched.

Investigators confirmed that the boys were inside, after they found their bikes abandoned at the entrance of the cave.

The 12 boys are all part of the Moo Pa (Wild Boar) football team and were believed to have been guided into the cave by their assistant soccer coach, Ekkapol Janthawong.

While authorities tried to gather resources to launch a search operation, efforts were marred by adverse weather conditions, with heavy rains sending torrents of water flooding through the cave.

Over the next few days, the team of Thai Navy SEAL special forces, who put together a team of navy divers, military, police and volunteers, found it difficult to wade through the murky floodwaters, inside the pitch dark cave that is in a dense jungle-covered and muddy mountainside.

With persistent rainfall continuing to flood the cave, the team employed a variety of strategies, including usage of powerful industrial water pumps, drilling through rock to drain water, deploying drones equipped with thermal cameras, sending an underwater robot to analyze the depth and condition of the cave, and even using sniffer dogs to search for the missing group.

However, with local authorities not making any headway, the plight of the young boys and their coach drew an outpouring of emotion across the world. 

Several countries then sent some of their best divers to aid in the rescue operation, which increased not only the size, but also the level of expertise of the rescue team - taking the number to 1,000 people, including teams from China, Myanmar, Laos, Australia, the U.S., and the U.K.

What next?

All the rescued eight boys have now been quarantined in case of an infection and have not been allowed to met with their parents at the hospital. 

Officials have stated that they were considering allowing the parents to see the boys through a glass partition.

Overall, the rescue mission has drawn international search-and-rescue crews from the U.S. military, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan.

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