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Rescue Updates: Teenager Football Team Found Alive in Cave

CityNews – On Saturday 23rd June, a group of 12 teenage footballers from the ‘Moo Pa Academy” – or wild boar academy – became stuck in the Tham Luang cave, Chiang Rai, with their coach after their only exit flooded. After 10 days alone in the cave, and the biggest recuse operation Thailand has ever seen, the boys and their coach were found alive and free from any serious diseases or injuries.

To read coverage of the 10 day rescue as it unfolded, click here to see our Live Updates article.  

The boys were malnourished and were suffering from muscular dystrophy but Navy SEAL medical teams determined that none of the teens were suffering from any life threatening injuries. All 13 were given power gel food (a high-protein gel type of food full of vitamins and minerals used for cases of starvation) antibiotics, penicillin, pain killers and fresh water.

As the whole world celebrated the happy discovery, authorities sat down to work out exactly how to rescue them. They were found some 400m after Pattaya Beach, roughly 2-3km deep into the cave. The fact that it took the best diving teams in the world 10 days to find them clearly shows that their rescue is not over yet – now they need to get out.

CityNews will bring periodical updates to the story and their extraction as we hear it.

Tuesday 3rd July 2018

At 10.30am Tuesday, we learn that

  • The military have begun sending in supplies, including high-protein gel food and water to last up to four months.
  • The boys, who don’t know how to swim, will need to learn how to dive or wait for the water to subside.
  • Medical teams report that the boys have only suffered ‘light’ injuries. “We categorised their health condition as red, yellow or green, red being the most severe injuries, yellow being mild and green being light. Yesterday, unofficially, we assessed that most are in the green category,” said Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn.
  • Any attempts to move the boys while flood water remains high could be very dangerous.

At 10.45am Tuesday, we hear from German press that officials are installing phone cables in the cave so parents can talk with their children who will not be brought out today.

At 11am Tuesday, the army has confirmed that it could take months before the boys can get out of the cave. They also told reporters that flood waters were once again rising, making it harder for rescue teams to get to them, although they insist that the boys will be fine as they are now with medical staff and Navy SEALS.

Wednesday 4th July 2018

In a press statement at 10am Wednesday, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said that now the boys have been found, more time can be spend on giving answers to press but he asks all to be respectful of boundaries and not to get in the way of rescue workers. He added that water drainage is crucial at this moment, as they need to ensure the water level is low enough for a rescue to be viable.

At 10.27am WednesdayThe Nation published an article that quoted the two British divers explaining how it was luck that they found the boys when they did because their rope finished at exactly that spot, forcing them to surface in the cave. The said that if the rope was just 15m shorter, they would have turned back and the boys would have spent another night alone in the cave.

Thursday 5th July 2018

The BBC deliver a special report on the situation at the cave claiming that they have talked to people within the diving teams who say that although teaching the boys basic diving skills and bringing them out soon is feasible, they believe it is too risky at this point and is safer to keep them inside the cave for up to four or five months until the monsoon is over and they can be extracted safely, above water.

The Chiang Mai governor says that they must be 100% confident that the method they choose to get them out of the cave is safe. Currently rehearsals of what authorities and medical staff must do when the boys are finally extracted are happening on a daily basis. He also adds that they may not have to come out all at the same time too, as if there is any risks, they will not move them.

King Rama X has ordered that cave search-and-recuse training is introduced to the curriculum of all branches of the armed forces. King Vajiralongkorn decreed that the skills used by foreign teams should be taught to the military to ensure they are better equipped for any other incidents like this happening in the future. The training will include cave diving and cave navigation.

Authorities have also delayed the transfer of Chiang Rai Governor which was ordered several months ago. In a statement, Narongsak Osottanakorn said “let me confirm that the command structure here is still the same. I’m still the top supervisor, as usual.” Despite his spotless record, Narongsak was being moved to Phayao (seen by many as a demotion given the small size of the province he is being moved to) after a recent government ‘reshuffle’ of the northern provinces. Activists have now petitioned the Prime Minister to revoke the move order so that Narongsak may stay and serve the Chiang Rai people, along with remaining the head of operations at the cave for the duration of the rescue that could now take months.

There have been conflicting reports on when the boys are expected to leave the cave, some suggesting within the next few days while other suggest it will take months. CityNews understands that authorities are still discussing options and on official order has been given.

Chiang Rai is expecting heavy thunderstorms covering 60% of the province from Saturday through Wednesday next week according to the National Meteorological Agency. The governor has declined to give any specific time frames at this point. In a statement made today, he added that it takes Navy SEALS 11 hours to reach the boys and exit the cave again (six in and five out) and that water pumps have pumped out a whopping 130 million litres of water from the cave so far. Communication cables are nearing the area the boys are located, which will give them live access to the outside world. He said the boys are in good spirits and are being taught how to scuba dive, however search teams are still looking for alternative routes into the cave.

Some unregistered volunteers have joined the pumping effort but have pumped the water into the ground which has now flooded the cave somewhat. Authorities urge all volunteers to report to the operation centre and follow the official plans to avoid any more incidents like this again.

Friday 6th July 2018

BREAKING NEWS: One Navy SEAL officer has died in the cave after he became unconscious under the water. Petty Officer 1st Class Samran Kunan (38) died inside the cave after he became unconscious on the way back from delivering air tanks to stages along the cave near the t-junction area. He began diving at 8.30pm July 5th and died at 1am July 6th. Despite attempts to resuscitate him, he died in the cave. other Navy SEALS took him out of the cave and he was taken to a local hospital where he was declared dead at the scene. The news broke at 9.30am Friday morning after the deputy provincial governor made a statement.

The search has also turned more serious not just because of the first death related to the search and rescue, but also because for the first time authorities have confirmed that the oxygen levels inside the cave are decreasing and the boys may need to be evacuated much earlier than planned. Some suggest that oxygen levels are as low as 15% at this point. Late last night Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said they will try to begin bringing out the boys – a dangerous oepration, but the most viable option at this point.

Reports suggest that as of Friday, Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn is not at the cave after he was transferred to Phayao despite the ongoing operation which he has led from the start. Later reports suggest he has visited Phayao to formally accept his position but will remain the head of the rescue operation in Chiang Rai.

New information gathered from the cave suggests that oxygen levels in the cave are decreasing, with unofficial reports suggesting levels as low as 15% of ‘normal’ levels. Rescue teams are continuing to search for other ways in and out of the cave to help speed up the rescue. A team of border police  discovered another shaft that cuts into the mountain only 200 metres from the group trapped inside. It is around 100 metres deep but does not seem reach the main cave.

According to Thai Visa, Belgian media reports that the evacuation will begin this weekend before the heavy rains hit the province. The report cites rescue diver Ben Reymenants, who is on stand by for the mission, who claims that the boys will be evacuated in pairs. He claims the boys will be given oxygen masks and led through the cave passageways by Thai Navy SEALS.

Elon Musk has reportedly been in contact with the Thai Government discussing options in helping with the rescue.

FIFA has issued a letter to the 13 inviting them all to the 2018 World Cup Final in Russia if they are out of the cave and healthy enough to attend.

Saturday 7th July 2018

BREAKING NEWS: Rescue Teams are opening air tanks inside the chamber the 13 boys are located to prevent them from suffocating in the cave, according to the former Chiang Mai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn in an emergency press release at 1am Saturday morning. The former governor has now returned to Chiang Mai to manage the rescue operation until it is concluded. He has said that the condition has stabilised for now but that exiting by swimming and scuba diving out is still the most viable option despite the dangers involved.

In the late morning of Saturday, a flurry of activity began, with people carrying in air tanks and metal piping into the cave, with reports suggesting that the boys will be coming out of the cave today while the conditions are still stable. The risk of extra flooding due to rain is expected later today, and as oxygen levels continue to decrease in the cave. An extraction is seen to be the best possible way now, but it is still fraught with danger.

Sunday 8th July 2018

Afternoon reports state that extraction of the boys was underway, with the weakest of the boys leaving first. This decision was made after it was deemed necessary to remove at least some of the people from the cave in order to preserve the decreasing oxygen levels inside the cave area they are stuck in.

By sundown, four of the 12 boys and the coach had safely made it out of the cave and were rushed to hospital in the local town of Chiang Rai. The mission had paused in order to replace the air tanks used in the extraction, dotted along the cave at certain ‘safe points’.

Earlier reports stated that six boys had been rescued, but the Former Chiang Mai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn and head of operations clarified it was actually just four at this time.

Divers guided the boys through the cave’s submerged passageways one by one, with two divers either side of them. they were fitted with a full face regulator and their gas canister was carried by one of the Navy SEAL divers. At one point the passage ways become so tight (Around 15 inches wide) that divers have to take off their air canisters to get through. BBC News reports that a team of 90 expert divers – 40 from Thailand and 50 from overseas – have been working in the cave system.

Photo: BBC News

 

Monday 9th July 2018

The rescue operation will begin again today after all air canisters have been prepared. We expect to see more boys exit the cave later today.

According to Chiang Mai Mail, Elon Musk’s Space X rocket company is testing a kid-sized submarine in California, and if tests are successful it will be placed on a flight to Thailand. Diving will begin again today, with the same divers as yesterday who are not familiar with the route and protocol of escorting the boys one by one. Teams on the ground say the rescue could take another four days to get everyone out safely.

Unconfirmed witness reports suggest the 5th boy has just exited the cave at around 4.45pm Monday.

Seven of the 12 boys and their coach have now been safely removed from the cave, after the sixth and seventh boy came out at around 6.30pm. There has been no official statement given about which boys have been taken out and how their health is, but all three were flown from the cave location to Chiang Rai in emergency helicopters.

Tuesday 10th July 2018

Elon Musk arrives in Thailand and visits Tham Luang cave along with his mini submarine made of rocket parts designed to get the boys out of the cave. He came on request from the Thai government but as the rescue operation is going so well, the sub may not be used. Rescue teams say the design is impractical given the current situation, and to try something new at this point could pose and even bigger risks. However, the sub will stay in Thailand and may be used if the current methods become impossible.

At around 12 midday, the Former Chiang Mai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn has said that the rescue operation today is now under way and that if the flooding does not become too serious then they hope to get all four remaining boys, their coach and all medical teams out of the cave today. Rain has begun to fall on Chiang Rai at the level it did the first day the boys were trapped in the cave so teams are aware of the urgency now, however, the pumping system and well planed diving operation should see much better results than we saw last week.

Sources confirm that the 9th boy has been taken out of the cave and is on his way to a helicopter to take him to Chiang Rai hospital. Authorities still plan to rescue everyone from the cave today, including the coach and a medical doctor inside the cave.

The Chief of Police has arrived at the rescue camp, which suggests the operation may come to an end today. Official statements will only be made once the operation is over today. According to Khaosod English. all boys in the hospital are under a 7-day quarantine and are being treated for early stage lung infections.

Unconfirmed reports at 5.30pm suggest 11 have now exited the cave safely.

Hooyah!! Thai Navy SEALS confirm that all 13 lives have survived extration and are now under the safe care of medical staff at Chiang Rai Hospital. This has been the biggest, longest rescue that Thailand has ever seen and after thousands of people from all over the world coming to help save the lives of the 12 wild boars and their coach, they are now safe. We must not forget the ex-Navy SEAL Petty Officer 1st Class Samran Kunan who died trying to help place air canisters that were later used in saving the boy’s lives.

Now the clean up begins. Although the danger is over, now authorities must assess the cave and what has been left inside, and how to deal with that, most likely after the rains and floodwater have gone at the end of the rainy season.