Home / NEWS / Four boys rescued from Thai cave but rest must wait as air tanks are replaced

Four boys rescued from Thai cave but rest must wait as air tanks are replaced

They allowed themselves smiles, but there was no cheering among the exhausted rescuers emerging from the Tham Luang cave system on Sunday evening.

With the first of the monsoon rains falling on the limestone hills above their heads, Thai Navy Seals and elite cave divers from around the world had pulled off what many thought was impossible – guiding four boys though a terrifying underwater journey in one of the most daring rescue operations of modern times.

But with heavy rain setting in at dusk, it was plain to authorities and locals that they now faced a race against time to rescue the remaining eight boys and their 25-year-old coach from their air-pocket prison 2.5 miles inside inside the mountain. 

And the biggest challenge is yet to come. The four boys who swam out on Sunday were selected because they were the strongest of the team. It is unclear how weaker and more vulnerable members of the group will manage the journey.

 “If we wait and the rain comes in the next few days we will be tired again from pumping and our readiness would drop. If that’s the case, then we have to reassess the situation,” said Narongsak Osottanakorn, the former Chaing Rai governor who is overseeing the rescue operation.

He added that the operation could only resume once air tanks had been replenished and other systems reinstalled.

Sunday’s operation will be remembered as an extraordinary achievement in a drama that has left Thailand and the world holding its breath.

A family member prays near the Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 schoolboys and their football coach are trapped 

Credit:
Reuters

The Wild Boars football team and their coach went missing after heavy rains blocked the exit of the cave complex, which they were exploring after football practice, on June 23.

They were found sheltering on a ledge four kilometres inside the cave on July 2 by Rick Stanton, a former West Midlands fire fighter, and John Volanthen, an IT consultant from Brighton, who are considered among the best cave diver rescuers in the world.

Authorities considered several rescue strategies, including drilling an escape shaft from above or pumping out enough water to enable them to walk out. Diving out was always considered the most dangerous option.

A Thai Navy Seal involved in the rescue died after running out of oxygen in a submerged section of the tunnel last week, and even elite cave divers have described the conditions inside the cave as frightening.

But after weather forecasters warned that fresh monsoon rains were imminent, rescuers realised they had no choice but to act quickly or risk seeing the boys drown.  

“Today is the D-day. The boys are ready to face any challenges,” Mr Narongsak announced earlier on Sunday morning. “A new storm is coming. If we wait and rain water comes in, our readiness will be lower than now.

Thirteen international divers set off to reach the 12 boys and their coach at 9am on Sunday morning. They were supported by 90-strong team of Thai Navy Seals and elite divers from countries including Britain, Australia, the US and China.

They then escorted four of the boys, who have been given rudimentary diving training, on a route that required them to swim for a full kilometre underwater.

The boys were equipped with “positive pressure” full-face diving masks designed to prevent water leaking in and clung to a guide rope to make sure they did not panic or lose their way in water so dark it has been likened to “cold coffee”.

The team had to squeeze through gaps just 38 centimeters wide, where the rescue divers were forced to remove their air tanks and push the equipment ahead of them.

Thai media named the first boy out as 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpia. However, his mother, who has been camping by the cave entrance, said she had not been informed by authorities whether her son was among the four rescued on Sunday. She planned to stay at the cave site overnight.

At least two of the rescued boys were helicoptered to the  Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, 37 miles away. A third was being treated at a Navy Seal field hospital at the cave entrance.

While little has been revealed about the medical condition of the survivors, their ordeal is likely to take both a psychological and physical toll.   Medical staff involved in the mission said they prioritize  checking on the boys’ breathing and signs of hypothermia. But they could also be looking for deadly diseases known to afflict miners and underground explorers.  

“Cave disease”, an airborne lung infection caused by bat and bird droppings, can be fatal if it is untreated. Each boy will have a devoted medical unit consisting of at least one doctor, two nurses, a paramedic and an ambulance.

It is understood that 13 helicopters – one for each boy – have been placed on standby to fly the survivors to hospital. 

Auto update

Elon Musk’s mini-submarine 

With the dive rescue under way again in the morning, it seems as if Elon Musk’s offer of help is not needed. However, he has just tweeted a video of his mini-sub being tested.

Rescued boys are undergoing checks in hospital

An ambulance reportedly carrying some of the rescued boys leaves the Tham Luang cave area for hospital

Credit:
Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

 The rescued boys were taken to the hospital in the town of Chiang Rai, the provincial capital, for evaluation.

Elon Musk’s company is at the site

The California tunnel company run by Elon Musk is continuing to maintain a presence at the cave. Sam Teller, spokesman for Boring Co, said that the company has four engineers who are “offering support in any way the government deems useful.”

Mr Musk tweeted early on Saturday that he was working with a team from his Space X rocket company to build a “tiny kid-size submarine” to transport the children.

Mr Musk says the sub would be light enough to be carried by two divers and small enough to get through narrow cave gaps.

Buddy system

Details are emerging of how the boys were helped out.

Each of the four boys – wearing a full face mask – was accompanied by two divers. They were tethered to a diver in front, who also carried their air tank. A second diver brought up the rear. 

So far, so good

“Today we managed to rescue and send back four children to Chiang Rai Prachanukrua Hospital safely,” the head of the rescue operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, told a news conference.

“… It’s a big success of all teams. We have thousands of people helping us with the operation.”

Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand’s elite navy Seal unit guided the boys to safety through narrow, submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver on Friday.

Donald Trump comments on rescue

An American military official told CNN that 36 Pacific Command personnel were involved in the operation, including 12 search-and-rescue divers, as well as staff from the US embassy.

Onlookers watching the evacuation

 We hear the rain is intensifying…

Onlookers watch and cheer as ambulances deliver boys rescued from a cave in northern Thailand to hospital in Chiang Rai 

Credit:
 Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

Thai official heading the cave rescue operation says the healthiest have been taken out first. 

Earlier we understood that rescuers had prioritised getting the weakest boys out first. 

Rescue paused for at least 10 hours

If only four have been rescued, it means there are still nine people  – eight boys plus coach Ekkapol Chantawong – are still in the cave. It will be a nail-biting night. 

Rescuers have ‘run out of oxygen’

The elite diving rescue team that brought four children to the surface has now used up its oxygen tanks and needs ten hours to prepare for the next stage of the operation, authorities have revealed. 

“Now we used up all the oxygen tanks and we need to redo the whole thing,” Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakornaid said at a press conference.

“We have to make sure all factors are at the best readiness before we can start the next operation. We need to evaluate all teams and will have meeting with the whole team at 9 PM for further steps.”

He revealed that the four boys who had been rescued had to swim a full kilometre to freedom. 

Ninety divers, 40 of them Thai and 50 of them foreign, are involved in the operation 

The rescue itself was carried out by a team of 13 international expert divers and ten Thai Navy SEALs. 

Four boys have been brought out of the cave today. Earlier the Thai defence ministry said six had been rescued.

The first boy emerged at 17:40 local time (11:40 GMT) – much quicker than originally anticipated. 

Rescued children to be checked for ‘cave disease’

Medics will check the rescued children for a deadly infection that is known to affect people caught in underground chambers, Reuters reports.

‘Cave disease’ is a lung infection spread by bat and bird droppings and can be fatal if left untreated. 

They will also be checked for hypothermia and be given a psychological assessment. 

Little has been revealed about the boys’ physical condition, but reports that the survivors have walked out suggest they are still fairly strong. 

‘Mixed bag’ of emotions amid confusion over numbers rescued

The Telegraph’s Nuttakarn Sumon reports from the scene:

“A helicopter just flew over the press centre to cheering from the crowd here.

“It’s a very confusing situation and a real mixed bag of emotions here. The Thai Navy Seals Facebook page says a fourth member of the Wild Boar football team left the cave at 19:47 local time (13:47 GMT). 

“We understand that two have been taken to hospital by helicopter and a third is being treated at a SEAL field hospital near the cave entrance.

“But that contradicts the earlier reports that six have been rescued. 

“There is a lot of rumour and conjecture here. We don’t know if any of the boys are in critical condition or not.”

British volunteer divers are leading the rescue

But the mood remains tense…

Rescuers allowing themselves to smile…

Rescue workers along the main road leading to Tham Luang Nang Non cave 

Credit:
Linh Pham/Getty Images

‘Weakest first’

Thai authorities have confirmed a few more details about the operation so far:

The rescuers chose to bring out the weakest boys first.

Each of them will have been escorted out underwater by two experienced divers.

There is so far little information about the boys’ health, but all of the six rescued so far have been strong enough to walk out of the cave themselves rather than being carried on stretchers. 

They have been given immediate medical attention at a field hospital before being taken by ambulance and helicopter to the hospital at Chiang Rai, about 37 miles away.

Children transferred to Chiang Rai hospital

We understand that the boys are being ferried by ambulance and then helicopter to the hospital in Chaing Rai. Several ambulances have been seen leaving he cave entrance and driving towards a helipad. 

 An ambulance believed to be carrying rescued schoolboys travels to a military helipad

Credit:
 SOE ZEYA TUN/ REUTERS

Six boys out of cave

Thai authorities are confirming that six boys have been brought out of the cave. As we noted earlier, that leaves seven people – six more boys, plus their football coach – waiting to leave. 

The operation seems to be going much more quickly than initially expected. We originally were told the whole operation could take days. We’re hours into it and half the trapped boys are already out. 

Two more boys expected out ‘shortly’

That would make six brought to safety by our count. Six more boys plus their coach remain inside the cave. 

One of two ambulances seen leaving the cave in northern Thailand after the rescue operation began

Credit:
Sakchai Lalit/AP

Military helicopters believed to be carrying rescued boys seen leaving the area 

A military helicopter believed to be carrying rescued schoolboys takes off near Tham Luang cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Ra

Thirteen helicopters on standby 

Slightly contradictory reports about the progress of the rescue. Thailand’s defence ministry says that four boys have reached the cave system’s chamber three, where they have been offered treatment before walking the rest of the way out. 

Earlier we heard that at least two had reached the surface and – later – had been helicoptered to hospital. 

What we do know is that the elaborate rescue effort appears to have been successful so far. 

There are 13 helicopters on standby – one for each member of the trapped team – waiting to take them to hospital. 

Helicopters evacuating boys to hospital

One helicopter with two boys took off from here at 19:10 (13:10 GMT) and will be landing in the hospital in town soon, Nuttakarn Sumon reports from the scene. 

Fourth boy rescued

Four boys among a group of 13 trapped in a flooded Thai cave reached the rescue base camp inside the complex on Sunday and will walk out soon, the country’s defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

“Four boys have reached chamber three and will walk out of the cave shortly,” Lieutenant-General Kongcheep Tantrawanit said, referring to the area where rescue workers had set up a base.

Grueling underwater route to freedom

A reminder of the challenges facing the boys and their rescuers.

The ledge the boys have sheltered on is four kilometers inside the cave system. 

The route out involves swimming underwater for 15 minutes at a time, squeezing through 38 cm gaps so narrow that divers will have to remove their kit, and scaling a five meter cliff.  

It would be challenging in any circumstances – and diving out was considered a last resort until forecasts of rain made it clear there was only a few days left to rescue them.

Ambulance seen leaving

Two ambulances seen leaving cave in northern Thailand hours after operation began to rescue trapped youth soccer players. 

We know that three of the boys are out of danger. 

The boys have had to dive, swim, and clamber through four kilometers of cave tunnels, much of it flooded, to reach safety. 

Third boy is ‘safe’

A third member of the football team has reached safety and is expected to emerge from the cave shortly, it is being reported. 

That leave nine boys, plus their coach, still awaiting rescue.

Confirmed – two rescued from Thai caves

The first two members of a Thai schoolboy soccer team have been rescued from the flooded cave where they had been trapped for more than two weeks, a local rescue official said on Sunday.

Authorities in northern Chiang Rai province began the dangerous mission to bring out the 12 boys and their coach earlier on Sunday.

“Two kids are out. They are currently at the field hospital near the cave,” said Tossathep Boonthong, chief of Chiang Rai’s health department and part of the rescue team.

“We are giving them a physical examination. They have not been moved to Chiang Rai hospital yet,”

‘Two boys rescued’ – Thai official

Local Thai officials have said two boys have been brought to the surface. The claim has yet to be confirmed.

Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand’s elite navy SEAL unit launched an operation to bring the boys – some as young as 11 and weak swimmers – to the surface this morning.

They will have to swim through through narrow, submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver on Friday.

Brothers in arms

The Thai Navy Seals have posted an image on Facebook after the rescue operation was announced, showing rescue workers holding each others’ arms and emphasizing the work with international rescuers.

Whole operation could take 2-4 days

A Thai army commander says the ongoing rescue could take two-four days depending on conditions inside the partially flooded cave.

According to Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakam, the 13 “will continuously come out in approximately two to four days, which all may change depending on weather and water conditions.”

Rescuers had to act immediately

After a short deluge of rain on Saturday night and with more bad weather forecast later on Sunday, Narongsak said authorities had to act immediately.

“There is no other day that we are more ready than today,” he said. “Otherwise we will lose the opportunity.”

Sustained heavy rains could make the water rise to the shelf where the children were sitting, reducing the area to “less than 10 square meters”, Narongsak had said on Saturday.

Ambulances wait outside the Tham Luang cave complex 

Credit:
Reuters

13 foreigners taking part in rescue

A total of 13 foreigners and five Thai divers are taking part in the rescue.

Rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn  said the boys will gradually come out accompanied by two divers each.

The only way to bring them out of Tham Luang Nang Non in Chiang Rai province is by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygen-depleted air.

Rescuers arrive nearthe cave where 12 boys and their football coach have been trapped since June 23

Credit:
AP

In a sign of the challenges facing the divers and boys, a former Thai navy SEAL passed out making the dive on Friday and died.

Experienced cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving, as the boys are. 

The rescue chief earlier that mild weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation that won’t last if it rains again.

Extraction will take about 11 hours

The divers went in at 10am local time – about 45 minutes ago – and the 13 people in the cave have been informed of the operation, as have the families.

The earliest the first group will emerge from the cave is  9pm, rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters near the cave site.

“The boys are ready to face any challenges,” he said.

Rescue mission under way

Rescue efforts for boys in Thai cave have begun, the mission chief has told a press conference.

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/08/thailand-cave-rescue-begins-operation-bring-first-group-trapped3/

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