Monday 24 September 2018

Divers get closer in Thai cave hunt for missing schoolboys

Scuba tanks are delivered to the site for Thai navy & SEAL. Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images
Scuba tanks are delivered to the site for Thai navy & SEAL. Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images

Tassanee Vejpongsa

Rescue divers have cleared a key hurdle in the increasingly desperate search for 12 boys and their soccer coach who went missing in a cave in northern Thailand more than a week ago.

A team led by Thai navy SEAL divers pushed through the murk of a 1km chamber to a passageway that could lead to where the missing may have taken shelter, said the divers' commander, Rear Admiral Arpakorn Yookongkaew.

But Admiral Arpakorn said even though the divers made some progress, they were not yet where they want to be.

"It's still tough as the water stream is quite strong," he said.

The missing boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered the sprawling Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province after soccer practice on June 23.

They were apparently trapped inside by flooding caused by heavy rain and have not been heard from since.

The divers have been stymied again and again by muddy water rising to the ceiling of the chamber, forcing them to withdraw for safety reasons. When water levels dropped, the divers went forward with a more methodical approach, deploying a rope line and extra oxygen supplies along the way.

The teams that swam Sunday included the SEALs, Australian divers and rescuers from the Thai city of Ayutthaya.

The effort had rebounded from earlier yesterday, when it appeared divers were making little progress.

"Today we made good progress, and it was a positive improvement, very positive," said Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn.

The divers' goal is to get to an area of the cave known as Pattaya Beach. That section of the cave has a higher elevation, and authorities hope it remained dry and the 13 missing took shelter there.

The search has been going slowly, largely because flooding has blocked rescuers from going through chambers to get deeper into the cave. Pumping water out of the cave hasn't solved the problem, so other teams have been looking to divert groundwater.

Irish Independent

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