A group of 12 boys and their football coach who are trapped in a cave in Thailand, will either need to learn to dive or wait months for flooding caused by the monsoon to recede before they can be rescued, the BBC quoted the country’s Army as saying on Tuesday. The group was missing for nine days before divers found them late on Monday on a small dry ledge.
It is believed that the group entered the Tham Luang cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai when it was dry. Sudden heavy rains may have blocked the exit. Attempts to pump out the water have so far not been successful, and experts have warned that bringing them out through the treacherous conditions inside the cave would be risky.
In a video released by the Thai Navy SEALS, the boys are seen sitting on the ledge above water, responding to the divers and saying that they are very hungry. They then ask the divers how long they have been underground and whether they can leave. When the divers tell them they have to wait and that they will come back for them, one boy replies: “Oh. See you tomorrow.”
Though Bill Whitehouse, vice-chair of the British Cave Rescue Council – which is helping the rescue efforts – played down speculation that the boys could be taught to dive, Thai News Agency of MCOT reported that rescuers had asked for donation of 15 small-sized full face masks for the boys. This may fuel speculation about divers’ plan to guide the boys through the water in full diving gear.
“It is certainly not easy,” Whitehouse told the BBC. “The other alternative is that you literally bring them out in packages. In other words you fit them with diving equipment: a full face mask, instead of having a gag in your mouth like a lot of divers use; package them up; put the correct weights on them so that they are neutrally buoyant and are not going to get stuck again. It has been done before.”
Whitehouse sounded sceptical about the prospects of pumping enough water out of the cave to allow the boys to walk to safety.
It took rescue workers nine days to locate them as the cave floods during Thailand’s rainy season, and even elite Thai Navy SEAL divers are finding it difficult to move through the muddy waters, currents and tight passageways, AP reported.
Though experts said it was advisable for the group to stay put at the moment, more monsoon rains are expected in the coming days. It could raise water levels in the cave again, complicating the supply missions or any potential move to extricate the group.