First Moment Rescuers Find Soccer Kids Trapped in Thailand Cave - Missing 10 days
The Thai soccer team has been trapped in a cave since June 23. In a possible new bid for a solution, engineers working for the entrepreneur Elon Musk will be dispatched to Thailand. In a string of tweets, Musk said his tunneling firm, Boring Co., and others will look for new ways to reach the underground chamber in the country’s north. Drilling into the cave and extracting the boys from above has been suggested, but Narongsak, speaking at a news conference, said only 18 of 100 holes that have been located are potentially viable.
He pointed out that any drilling process could take months, likening the situation to the 2010 mine rescue in Chile that took 69 days to get the stranded miners to the surface.
“We are trying to rule out the impossible,” he said.
The boys, he added, “cannot dive at this time” and are not ready to make the almost six-hour journey out of the cave. Two of them and their coach are in poor health. Officials also remain desperately concerned about the weather, with heavy rains forecast within days that could flood the cave again and render futile any efforts to pump water out.
While their situation is dire, dozens of people have been rescued from underground emergencies.
“We would like to take the minimum risk possible,” he said. “But we can’t wait for the rain.”
The governor’s midnight news conference, held just as a drizzle started to fall over the muddy, chaotic rescue site, underscored the lack of a good option to free the boys and their coach after they were found alive Monday night.
Getting the boys to dive their way out of the cave has been raised as the most likely possibility, but a retired Thai navy SEAL preparing for that option by placing compressed-air tanks along an exit route ran out of oxygen himself early Friday morning and died.
Speaking at a news conference, a commander of the Thai navy SEAL group said the diver was found unconscious about 1 a.m. Friday. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was later transferred to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
“It is sad news,” Pasakorn Boonyalak, deputy governor of Chiang Rai province, said at the news conference. “His job was to deliver oxygen, but he did not have enough on his way back.”
The fatality, the first of the rescue mission, has raised fears that a rescue mission could be fraught and even deadly for the boys.
For the boys' parents waiting above ground, the news of their safety ended days of waiting and praying. The 12 boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old assistant coach disappeared on June 23 after soccer practice. Their bikes and cleats were found just outside the caves. They apparently went in to explore and became trapped by flooding caused by heavy rain.
Now that rescuers have found the boys alive and in good condition, they are giving them high protein liquid food and antibiotics.
The Tham Luang Nang Non cave system stretches about six miles into a mountain. More than 1,000 first responders from around the world searched for 10 days. They had to go about two and a half miles from the cave system's entrance – through passages obstructed by thick mud and high water – just to find the group. They were located near a chamber known as Pattaya Beach, which has a higher elevation.
Capt. Jessica Tait with the U.S. Air Force was one of 35 Americans who helped in the rescue effort.
"Everyone is coming together to figure out the next course of action and how to bring them out as safely and as quickly as possible," Tait said.
Rescuers raced to pump out water from the cave Tuesday, as heavy rain is the forecast for the rest of the week. Thailand's rainy season lasts until October, and the cave is regularly flooded.
"It is not a hundred percent secure," the governor said Tuesday. "So I cannot give an answer to confirm how many days the kids will have to stay in the cave."
A Thai Navy SEAL team will make the final call on how they get the boys out. One option is to teach them to dive with special breathing masks. But the murky water is difficult to navigate even for experienced divers. There is low visibility in the caves and the floodwater can move fast.
One of the rescuer workers also said none of the boys know how to swim. The other option is to keep the boys in the cave until the water levels recede, which many experts say is the best option. But that means the boys could be in the cave for weeks if not months.