Thai cave rescue mission resumes after heavy downpours

Thai cave rescue mission resumes after heavy downpours

Thai soldiers at the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, where the boys are still trapped. Image: Getty

Monday, July 9, 2018

Four of the twelve boys trapped in a Thai cave have been brought to the surface, with eight still awaiting rescue.

The mission resumed this morning (July 9), with several elite British divers among the team.

British divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen were the first rescuers to reach the group and are believed to still be in Thailand, alongside fellow expert divers Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewel.

All have been involved in previous cave rescues.

Paused to replenish oxygen

The British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC) confirmed that seven divers from the UK with "expertise in cave diving" are assisting, and Thai authorities are supervising the expedition.

Heavy monsoon rains lashed the Chiang Rai region, where the Tham Luang Nang Non cave is situated, on Sunday night, and the rescue mission was paused yesterday to allow the team to replenish their air tanks.

Some passages in the cave are so narrow that there’s no room to wear oxygen, meaning the divers must pass the tanks through ahead of them and breathe through a connected tube.

Extracting everyone could take up to four days, but the initial success has raised hopes that could be done.

'Better than expected'

"The operation went much better than expected," said Chiang Rai acting governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is overseeing the mission.

He told reporters the four rescued boys were taken to the hospital in the town of Chiang Rai, the provincial capital, for evaluation.

The names of the rescued boys were not released.

The rescue involves taking the boys from where they have been sheltering and through dark, tight and twisting passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.

Two divers will accompany each of the boys, all of whom have been learning to dive only since July 2, when the first searchers found them.

Cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape to be a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving.

The death on Friday of a former Thai navy Seal, Saman Gunan, highlighted the risks.

He was attempting to place oxygen canisters along the route, and died after running out of oxygen himself.

'Tiny submarine' being tested

Last week, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk offered to help the rescue efforts, and tweeted advice about how the water could be pumped out with inflatable tubes.

Four engineers from his Boring Co tunnelling company are at the cave, and they said that Thai authorities had requested that a “tiny kid-sized submarine” be tested.

Musk tweeted a video of it being tested, and if it’s found to work, it’ll be flown to Thailand.