Thailand plans extra security measures at 'world famous' cave: PM

Thailand plans extra security measures at 'world famous' cave: PM
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - Thailand's prime minister said on Tuesday extra precautions would have be implemented to safeguard tourists who want to visit a cave where 12 boys and their football coach were trapped for more than two weeks.

The search and dramatic rescue operation to retrieve the 13 from the cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai has attracted global interest and dominated headlines around the world, putting the Tham Luang cave complex firmly on the map.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned that safety measures would have to be put in place inside and outside the cave.

"In future, we have to monitor the entrance and exit to the cave. This cave has become world famous … we have to install more lights inside the cave and put up signs," Prayuth told reporters in Bangkok.

"It's a dangerous cave," said Prayuth, adding that the cave would be closed to the public for a while until "everything is in order". He did not elaborate.

A rescue mission was launched on Sunday and four of the boys were brought out that day and four on Monday. Officials hope the last four boys and their coach will all be out on Tuesday.

The 12 boys and their football coach went missing on June 23 when they were exploring the cave after football practice, just before a rainy season downpour flooded the complex.

British divers found the 13, huddled on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometers inside the complex on Monday last week.

Visitors are advised not to enter the cave during the rainy season because it is known to be prone to flooding.

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.

Last week, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said it planned to promote the Tham Luang cave as a tourist attraction after it featured so prominently in the news.

"The cave has become of interest for both local and foreign travellers," Karuna Dechatiwong, TAT director in Chiang Rai province, told media.

Mountainous northern Thailand is riddled with caves.

Some have become places of Buddhist worship over the years, with Buddha images placed inside.

Many have never been explored.

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