8 rescued from Thai cave, but 5 remain trapped

8 rescued from Thai cave, but 5 remain trapped
PHOTO: Reuters

Elite divers hauled four more young footballers out of a flooded Thai cave on Monday, authorities said, bringing to eight the number saved in a stunning rescue mission but still leaving five others trapped.

"Hooyah," the Thai Navy SEALs, who have played a crucial role in the against-the-odds operation, said in a Facebook post as they announced that a total of eight members of the "Wild Boars" football team had been rescued on Sunday and Monday.

Thais have been fixated on the crisis, hoping desperately for the safe return of the 12 boys and their 25-year-old football coach, after they ventured into the Tham Luang cave complex after practice and became trapped by rising waters more than a fortnight ago.

The extraction of the four on Monday followed a similar pattern to the previous day, with the youngsters emerging in quick succession just before nightfall after navigating a treacherous escape route of more than four kilometres (2.5 miles) that included extremely narrow and flooded tunnels.

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หมูป่าตัวที่ 1 หมู่ป่าตัวที่ 2 หมูป่าตัวที่ 3 หมูป่าตัวที่ 4 หมูป่าตัวที่ 5 หมูป่าตัวที่ 6 หมูป่าตัวที่ 7 หมูป่าตัวที่...

Posted by Thai NavySEAL on Monday, 9 July 2018

Although the rescued eight were all presumed to be the boys, aged between 11 and 16, authorities did not reveal their identities nor confirm whether the coach remained inside the cave.

Asked if the remaining five would be shuttled out together, rescue operations chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said it was up to the divers whose meticulous plans, including stashing extra oxygen tanks along the route, are "set for four people, if we bring five we have to change the plan".

In a late-night press conference he also delivered a message from Thai premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a gruff former general:

"The Prime Minister wants this to be a lesson, this should not happen again in Thailand," Narongsak said.

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"2 days, 8 Wild Boars. Hooyah." http://str.sg/oQxZ

Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, 9 July 2018

The saga has dominated global headlines, with the team spending nine days unaccounted for inside the cave, before British divers found them -- emaciated and dishevelled -- huddling on a muddy bank above the flooding.

Authorities then struggled to determine the best way to save the "Wild Boars", with the group stuck on a shelf above the floodwaters in pitch darkness.

Among the ideas were drilling an escape route through the mountain, or leaving them for months until the monsoon season ended and the flooding subsided.

But with oxygen levels inside dropping to dangerous lows and the prospect of heavy rains flooding the area completely, authorities decided they had to move quickly and take the group out through the water-filled tunnels.

Thai cave rescue: How each boy is extracted in complex process

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    The 10-km long Tham Luang cave, which has been described as a labyrinth, sits near the Thai border with Myanmar.

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    Rescue divers began operations on Sunday (July 8) to extract the 12 boys and their football coach from the massive Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

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    Here's how the 12 boys might dive and walk out of the complex cave network. (Graphic Not drawn to scale)

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    The boys are located more than 4km from the mouth of the cave. Most of the boys don't know how to swim.

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    According to experts, divers required three hours to reach the boys from the mouth of the cave, Reuters reported. The boys' ordeal is expected to last 3 or more hours.

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    This undated handout photo taken recently and released by the Royal Thai Navy on July 7, 2018 shows a Thai Navy diver in the cave during rescue operations.

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    The boys will have to first dive for 400m before reaching Pattaya Beach, a chamber more than 4km from the cave's entrance. Then, they have to dive for another 130m before walking and climbing along a 400m-long dry area.

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    The first, nearly 1km-long section from where the boys have been huddling in darkness is believed to be the most difficult, requiring a long dive and crawling through mud and debris, with some crevices barely wide enough for a person.

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    The 5-km escape route cuts through dark, flooded and narrow passageways, as this still from a video circulating online shows.

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    How each boy will be tethered to the 2 adult rescue divers. Once past the first stretch, the boys' escape route forks east at a T-junction, and they must scrabble over some diverse terrain including giant boulders, sand and slippery rocks with sudden cliff-like drops and further submerged passageways.

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    The biggest crisis spot is a 38-cm-wide crevice close to the T-junction, known as Sam Yaek Junction.

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    The biggest crisis spot is a 38-cm-wide crevice close to the T-junction, known as Sam Yaek Junction.

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    "The hole is really small, I have to take off my air tank to crawl through it," a 25-year-old Thai Navy Seal told Reuters before the rescue attempt. "As I do, I feel the edges of the hole on both my back and chest."

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    Rescue divers will have to remove their scuba tanks and roll them along while guiding the boys through. After that though, the tunnels widen, the waters subside, and walking is even possible.

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    There are several 'choke points' in the complex cave network. After the dreaded T-junction, the rest of the journey is expected to be relatively safe as they will have reached a forward operating base inside the cave.

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    Ambulances wait at the mouth of the cave to whisk the boys away to hospital when they emerge.

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    Divers resuming the rescue mission on Monday (July 9).

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    Police and military personnel use umbrellas to cover around a stretcher near a helicopter and an ambulance at a military airport in Chiang Rai on July 9, 2018.

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    Rescuers venturing into the cave in a photo released on July 7 by the Thai Royal Navy.

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    The high-risk operation at the Tham Luang caves paused overnight on Sunday (July 8) as rescuers recovered and oxygen tanks were replenished along the route.

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    Torchlight only affords visibility up to three feet in the murky waters.

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    A nearby hospital ready to receive the boys after they are rescued.

Deadly dangers

Narongsak described Sunday's initial rescue bid as "D-Day" when it was launched, and there were fears that any one of many potential pitfalls could prove deadly.

Among these were that none of the boys had scuba diving experience and that they could easily panic while swimming underwater across twisted passageways in darkness.

Dozens of foreign divers and other experts from around the world were brought in to help the rescue effort, working alongside the Thai Navy SEALs.

But the death of a former Thai Navy SEAL diver who ran out of oxygen in the cave on Friday underscored the danger of the journey.

The first successes on Sunday offered hope of a fairytale ending to the ordeal.

Rescue chief Narongsak on Sunday described their journey out, escorted by the elite divers, as "smooth".

Crucially, round-the-clock pumping to ease some of the flooding paid off and threatened heavy rains did not arrive.

That led an upbeat Narongsak to promise more "good news" on Monday afternoon that materialised a few hours later with the emergence of the other four.

But although the eight were rescued, there were concerns they may have contracted an illness while in the cave.

All 13 members of Thai junior football team found in flooded cave

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    Parents of the boys trapped in the Chiang Rai cave shed tears of joy and relief on Wednesday morning as they watched a video of them being treated for minor injuries.

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    The Royal Thai Navy SEALS shot the video and posted it on their “ThaiSEAL” Facebook page, showing the 12 boys noticeably thinner and looking exhausted.

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    But the boys swaddled in silvery blankets proclaim themselves in good health in the clip.

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    Their parents watched the video while they were waiting to talk to the boys via a specially rigged phone system.

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    They reaffirmed their love for the children and said they were forgiven for going astray, since none of them could have expected the June 23 cave excursion would turn into a nail-biting 10-day drama, with no clear end yet in sight.

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    Attention has now turned to how to get the group back out through several kilometers of dangerously flooded tunnels.

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    The navy has raised the possibility that the 13 could be in the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province until the flood waters recede, at the end of the rainy season in four months.

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    But others say the boys could be out in a matter of days if the weather is on their side and water can be pumped out of the cave complex, and if they can be taught to use scuba gear.

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    Kobchai Boonarana, deputy director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation department, said it was up to the rescue team in the cave to decide whether and when the boys would be strong enough to tackle the journey out.

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    “We miss them and want to see them get out very soon,” one parent said as the video played. “They look thinner, but we’re happy they’re safe.”

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    Rescuers found all 12 boys and their football coach alive inside the flooded Tham Luang Cave Monday night.

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    The 13 victims from a local football club, Mu Pa Academy Mae Sai, have been stranded inside the cave in Chiang Rai province because of flash floods since June 23.

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    The group, mostly seated and with baggy football shirts pulled over their knees and illuminated by torchlight, asked for food and to leave the cave immediately, according to the video taken late Monday and shared on the official Facebook page of the Thai Navy SEALS.

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    The group appeared exhausted, rake thin, sensitive to the light but lucid, with some speaking faltering English to try to communicate with the unidentified diver.

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    Family members celebrate while camping out near Than Luang cave following news all members of children's football team and their coach were alive in the cave at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province late July 2, 2018.

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    The Chiang Rai governor praised and gave credits to two British cave diving experts who found the missing team. He did not mention the names but it is understood to be John Volanthen and Richard Stanton (pic, in blue).

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    Three British cave-divers, Richard William Stanton (L), John Volanthen (2nd-L) and Robert Charles Harper (3rd-L) arrive at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018

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    12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year old assistant football coach went missing on Saturday after they decided to explore the Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai province,

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    despite a sign warning visitors that the maze of passages and chambers was prone to flooding.

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    Bicycles and football shoes belonging to the boys were found near the entrance, and rescue workers think handprints inside the cave could have been left by the group.

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    But the search has so far yielded no other trace.

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    The race to find the boys has gripped the Southeast Asian nation

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    International rescue teams, including one sent by the United States Pacific Command (PACOM),

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    are assisting the Thai army, navy and police in a search operation that has been hampered by heavy rain.

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    Plans to drill into the mountainside overnight to drain water from inside the vast cave complex have been partially successful.

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    The 10-kilometre cave is one of Thailand's longest. Visitors are usually only allowed up to 800 meters inside the cave, which has a reputation for being difficult to navigate.

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    Exhausted family members have been keeping vigil near the cave as they await news about their loved ones.

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    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the site, offering encouragement to rescuers and comfort to relatives.

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    "Whatever can be done, do it, the government will back it," said Prayuth.

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    "They're athletes. They're strong," he told the boys' relatives in an attempt to comfort them.

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Narongsak said after the first four boys were rescued that they would be quarantined "for a while because we are concerned about infections".

And rain could still re-emerge as a threat for the remaining five, particularly if there are complications that could delay the extraction further.

Authorities have repeatedly said the rain could re-flood crucial parts of the cave complex that have been drained and make the escape route much harder or even impossible to navigate.

Weather forecasters warned heavy rain could hit the area through the week.

Premier Prayut visited the rescue base on Monday night to deliver his congratulations to all those involved, but also to offer a note of caution.

"Everyone should be proud. (But) the mission is not over yet," Prayut said.

Also read: Thai cave rescue: Elon Musk proposes mini-submarine to save trapped boys

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