Trapped footballers in Thailand cave survived by lying still, drinking dripping water

Trapped footballers in Thailand cave survived by lying still, drinking dripping water
PHOTO: AFP

Twelve young footballers and their assistant coach survived being trapped for 10 days in Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai by minimizing their movements and drinking water that dripped from limestone.

A rescuer, Supat Khamsueb, said on his Facebook wall that he monitored radio conversations between Navy Seal troops and the trapped boys.

He said the Navy Seal rescuers asked the boys how they survived and they replied that they tried to lie still and drank water that dripped through the limestone in the cave.

READ ALSO: First conversation between rescuers and boys trapped in cave

Meanwhile, families of the 13 victims burst with joy Monday night upon learning that 10-day-long rescue operations at the Tham Luang Cave have finally been successful.

I am so glad that I cannot think of anything else,” an uncle of a 13-year-old football player of Mu Pa Academy Mae Sai said.

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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Despite the success of the operation, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said there were still challenges ahead in bringing them out of the flooded cave.

The governor said the initial estimates of the health of the team members showed they were fine.

“From the video clip shot when the British divers found the boys, they looked exhausted given the fact that they were there without food and water for many days. If we had to choose between green as the best, yellow, and red the worst, they look to be green,” Narongsak said.

It is reported that 16 Navy SEAL divers have been sent to the location, called Nern Nom Sao slope, to stay with the boys to keep tabs on their health and prepare them for evacuation.

The divers took some special food such as power gel and water for them. Narongsak said the process to prepare the boys for evacuation will take a few days and the best way is still being considered.

READ ALSO: Thai cave boys to get 4 months' food, learn to dive as rescue efforts may be prolonged

“They will be taken out of the cave, when it is safe enough. The challenge now will be to bring them out safely, as rising water and mud are impeding access.”

Meanwhile, other efforts to access the cave such as through drilling, and finding alternative passages, as well as draining water out of the cave, will continue.

The governor thanked both Thai and international volunteers for their dedication in this operation, which he had earlier described as mission impossible.

He praised and gave credit to two British cave diving experts who found the missing team. He did not mention the names but they are understood to be John Volanthen and Richard Stanton.

He appreciated the personnel and equipment support received from the US, the UK, China, Russia, Belgium, Japan, Laos and Israel. “The crucial factors that made this operation a success were the well organised cooperation and management,” he said.

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