Daring Rescue In A Thai Cave

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In Northern Thailand, a team of young soccer players and their coach went missing in a treacherous cave after returning from their practice.

The group had left their bikes outside and trekked into the cave at around 1 p.m. on June 23. They ignored warning signs advising visitors to not venture deep during the rainy season. Hours later, a ranger from the province notified officials after finding the players’ bikes. Rescue teams were sent to try and find the missing boys.

Nine days later, a British rescue team found the boys and their coach in a secluded spot four kilometers from the mouth of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave. The families of those who are trapped, in addition to the public, were assured that the coach and players were safe and that rescue teams would attempt to retrieve them as soon as possible.

How The Events Unfolded

Since the team was located, international rescue workers have been able to send them basic provisions. Special energy gels were provided, oxygen was pumped into their chamber, and large amounts of water were pumped out of the cave. The boys, who had been trapped in the cave for two weeks, also underwent multiple medical check-ups that determined they were in good health.

The main focus of the rescue workers was to prepare the children to escape as soon as possible. The narrow, crooked passageways, leading up to the small chamber where the boys were holed up, are flooded with murky water. Even for experienced divers, it is an exhausting five-hour trip one way which includes diving, wading, crawling and climbing with the help of guide ropes. 

Several options were considered. One possibility was to teach the boys how to swim and send a ‘buddy’ diver to help them out through multiple narrow passages in the dark. Another option was to drill into the cave and create a new passageway to escape. However, the plan did not look favorable due to the fact that the exact layout of the cave is unknown, so teams do not know where and how far to drill down.

An international rescue team suggested pumping out as much of water as possible in the hope that the boys could walk back out on the same path that they came in on. This scheme, though, is purely based on chance because there was a strong possibility of the cave flooding again. Lastly, the Royal Thai Navy determined that the lowest-risk plan would be to wait four months until the monsoon season ended to rescue the boys. 

A Race Against Time

Monsoon season in Thailand usually begins in July and ends in October and consists of heavy rains, high-speed winds, and flooding. The addition of water to the already flooded caves can restrict the oxygen supply and cause the oxygen level to dangerously drop.

The rainfall could prove to be more trouble than previously thought especially after the death of an ex-navy diver in the caves. The diver was delivering oxygen tanks when he lost consciousness in one of the passageways and could not be revived. Meanwhile, local people 

Finally, it was decided that the best option would be to get the boys out as soon as possible. In a daring attempt, all twelve of the trapped boys and their coach were rescued by divers after 17 days in the cave. Two divers accompanied each boy as they made the dangerous journey out of the cave system, in which they had to swim upwards out of a narrow channel filled with water. 

Sources: CNN, BBC, National Geographic, Vox, NBC