PHOTO: Army doctor Colonel Pak Loharachun on Wednesday prepares inside the cave to treat minor wounds sustained by the football team members – Thai Navy SEALS
“The fittest of the survivors will be the first to come out, others will follow,” Narongsak Osotanakorn, Chiang Rai governor and head of the rescue operations, said yesterday.
Rescuers do not want to delay their exit due to upcoming rains and the possibility of more flooding in cave.
The 13 teenagers and their 25 year old coach are now familiarising themselves with diving gear as rescue planners concluded yesterday that they will have to dive through floodwaters to get out of the Tham Luang cave, where they have been stranded since June 23.
The easing of the flood situation has raised the prospects of helping the 13 footballers come out of the cave where they have spent 11 days.
“The floodwater levels have been dropping by one centimetre per hour. If we can maintain this momentum, it should be safe enough to bring the kids out soon,” Narongsak said.
The US Cave Rescue Commission’s national coordinator Anmar Mirza said that while diving was the quickest option to bring the survivors out, it was also the “most dangerous” option. But the option of letting the survivors stay inside the cave until the floodwaters completely receded was yesterday ruled out amid the significant risk of impending heavy downpours that could again leave the cave flooded.
The 10 kilometre long cave in Chiang Rai province is normally flooded between July and November every year. On Monday night, experienced cave divers from Britain found the missing football team at a spot about 5km from the cave’s entrance.
The 13 survivors will stay put at their current location while detailed preparations are being made for their safe evacuation. They have been joined by Royal Thai Navy SEALs and are also supplied with soft food, water, light, medicine, thermal blankets and diving gear.
The survivors yesterday started to learn how to wear full-face masks and practice breathing. Medics, including Army doctor Colonel Pak Loharachun, have completed health checks for all team members and found them relatively healthy.
One footballer asked in a video posted yesterday, “Can we go out today?” Pak told the boys to be patient, explaining that despite his diving skills it took him six hours to move from the third chamber of the cave to the current location of the survivors.
The third chamber of the cave, which is about two kilometres from the entrance, is now operating as the forward command of the rescue operations. Lighting and communication devices have been installed there and also supplied with oxygen tanks, medicine and all other necessary supplies. From the third chamber to the flooded T-junction is a distance of about 800 metres. From that intersection, there is a narrow and completely submerged passage that requires rescue teams to dive to get through. The floodwater level there was nearly five metres as of press time. After getting out of this narrow passage, rescue teams have to climb and hike a stretch of 400 metres. This zone is dry. Then, they have to dive for about another 130 metres to reach the so-called Pattaya Beach. Then the team must walk further over the beach before making another 400 metre long dive to reach the slope where the survivors have gathered.
All these survivors will have to be taught to swim and dive before being escorted out. Even with diving experts by their side, the team will have to dive and swim on their own at some points in the journey out of the cave.
A rescue team from the United States Indo-Pacific Command has vowed to support the operations at the Tham Luang cave until all 13 survivors are safely brought out.
SOURCE: The Nation