Friday 14 December 2018

Eight boys out of flooded cave, safety of rest is ‘up to rain god’

Young footballers recover in hospital but race is on to save those still underground

Thai navy divers in Tham Luang cave during rescue operations for 12 trapped boys and their football team coach. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Thai navy divers in Tham Luang cave during rescue operations for 12 trapped boys and their football team coach. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police and military personnel use umbrellas to shield a rescued boy beng transferred on a stretcher from a helicopter to an ambulance after he emerged from the Tham Luang cave. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Classmates of the trapped boys at Mae Sai Prasitsart school, close to the caves, pray after their teacher announced that more of the footballers had been rescued. Photo: REUTERS
Parents of a trapped boy wait for their son to be evacuated. Photo: REUTERS

Nicola Smith in Chiang Rai

The official in charge of the rescue of 12 young boys and their football coach from a cave in Thailand said another attempt today would be "100pc successful" after four more young people were freed yesterday.

A third rescue attempt will take place this afternoon, said Narongsak Osottanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province and head of the joint command centre co-ordinating the mission.

But he did not confirm whether the five people remaining for another night 4km inside the labyrinthine underground network would be freed in one go.

The group is believed to include Ekapol Chanthawong (25), the boys' football coach.

"For safety, the best number is four," he said, raising the possibility that one or more of the party could remain a further 24 hours.

The operation is still fraught with danger, despite some improved weather conditions.

Click to view full size graphic
Click to view full size graphic

Yesterday's operation, which took the tally of those rescued to eight, was two hours faster than Sunday's efforts.

Heavy rain has struck the region intermittently over the last three days and further downpours could set back draining efforts at the cave.

"As all of us said, the main thing is we still need more than 20 hours to get ready," Narongsak said.

"And it is up to the environment. If the rain god helps us, then we may be able to work fast. But if the rain god doesn't help, then it could be challenging."

All the rescued boys are said to be in good condition in hospital and asking for Pad Krapow, a Thai dish of basil leaves, meat and rice.

"The team is getting used to the operation and in the cave we have more than 100 staff on guide ropes, filling [air] tanks and 18 divers to get the children," he said.

Infections

The first boy rescued yesterday was taken by ambulance to a field hospital around 4.30pm for assessment before a helicopter transferred him to medical teams in the nearby town of Chiang Rai.

He was followed in quick succession by three more between 6pm and 8pm.

They joined those who were rescued on Sunday and all were place in isolated medical care while doctors tested them for any potentially lethal infections that they might have picked up during their ordeal in the damp cave.

The rescue of the eighth was confirmed mid-evening on the Thai Navy Seals Facebook page.

None of the boys has been identified as the authorities maintain sensitivities for the families of those still in danger.

As last night's rescue mission came to an end, Thailand's Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the cave entrance to offer his support.

Yesterday's mission began at 11am local time (5am here) when an international diving team entered the cave complex for the second rescue operation after water levels stabilised despite heavy overnight rainfall.

Conditions at the cave have so far remained favourable for the rescue efforts.

A senior forestry official at the scene said that efforts to drain the cave using water pumps and irrigation channels had paid off.

"The water levels are stable," he said.

Irish Independent

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