Boys rescued from Thai cave attend gala dinner hosted by govt to thank cave divers, rescuers


Thousands of people swarmed a well-known square in the Thai capital on Thursday evening (Sept 6) as the young Thai football team who were dramatically rescued from a flooded cave in July attended a formal thank-you dinner presided by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The 12 young members of the Moo Pa (Wild Boar) Academy and their coach, had been mostly kept away from talking to media as the government tries to help them return to normality.

They earlier spoke to the media in a group interview at Siam Paragon mall.

The gala dinner was held at the Royal Plaza to thank the teams of divers and rescuers, including foreigners who helped in the successful rescue operation at Tham Luang cave two months ago.

Speaking at the event, PM Prayut said: "No matter what role you were playing in this mission, you have uplifted us all by showing the world the ultimate power of unity, love, kindness, and faith in humanity, which is a power that can help us overcome all obstacles."

Thai and international rescue personnel and divers were given royal notes of appreciation bestowed by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

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

  • The 10-km long Tham Luang cave, which has been described as a labyrinth, sits near the Thai border with Myanmar.
  • 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.
  • Here's how the 12 boys might dive and walk out of the complex cave network. (Graphic Not drawn to scale)
  • The boys are located more than 4km from the mouth of the cave. Most of the boys don't know how to swim.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The 5-km escape route cuts through dark, flooded and narrow passageways, as this still from a video circulating online shows.
  • 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.
  • The biggest crisis spot is a 38-cm-wide crevice close to the T-junction, known as Sam Yaek Junction.
  • The biggest crisis spot is a 38-cm-wide crevice close to the T-junction, known as Sam Yaek Junction.
  • "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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ambulances wait at the mouth of the cave to whisk the boys away to hospital when they emerge.
  • Divers resuming the rescue mission on Monday (July 9).
  • 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.
  • Rescuers venturing into the cave in a photo released on July 7 by the Thai Royal Navy.
  • 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.
  • Torchlight only affords visibility up to three feet in the murky waters.
  • A nearby hospital ready to receive the boys after they are rescued.

The young footballers and their coach were trapped from June 23 after the cave in Chiang Rai province that they in, was flooded. They were found by two British cave divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen on July 2. Extraction operations were carried out between July 8 and 10.

Adul Sam-on, a 14-year-old member of the Moo Pa team, read the thank you remark on behalf of his teammates at the dinner.

"The fact that we have been saved makes us feel that we have to return the gratitude by living good lives, being good children to the parents and being good students to the teachers."

"After we left the cave, we have learned of the love and care that Thais and people all over the world have for us and we felt overwhelmed and we want to thank you all from the heart."

Ms Narinthorn Na Bangchang, a rescue coordinator who led the first group of cave divers to Tham Luang during the first days of the boys' disappearance told The Straits Times: "I'm very happy that all of them are safe. I don't have any particular expectation for the boys except that they would grow up and be happy."

Ms Narinthorn says all lessons drawn from the event are positive, except the passing of ex-Navy Seal diver Saman Gunan or Sergeant Sam who passed away in the cave during an operation on July 6.

The young footballer Adul thanked "Uncle Sam" and his family for his sacrifice.

Touching memes celebrate success of #ThaiCaveRescue mission

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.