Thailand: Boys′ soccer team lost in cave found alive | News | DW | 03.07.2018
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Thailand: Boys' soccer team lost in cave found alive

After nine days trapped in a cave, 12 young soccer players and their coach have been found alive. Rescuers have brought the group food and supplies to last for several months.

Rescue divers on Tuesday found twelve teenage soccer players and their coach alive after they went missing in a Thai cave more than nine days ago. But authorities said it remains unclear how long the boys will have to remain inside.

An international search effort , including experts from China, Australia, the US and Britain, has been ongoing since the group went missing inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex.

A video from the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page has been shared widely on social media, and shows the emaciated group several kilometers inside the 10-kilometer (six-mile) cave network on a small wedge of dry ground.

"We've come this far. There's no way we're going to lose them on the way out," Narongsak Osotthanakorn, governor of Chiang Rai province where the cave is located, told reporters early Tuesday.

What we know

  • Authorities have brought the group high-protein gels and supplies to last for four months and have been trying to install a telephone line to the boys.
  • Rescuers have pumped out more than 120 millions of liters (32 million gallons) of water from the cave as part of an unspecified evacuation plan.
  • Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said the boys may have to use smaller diving equipment and then be guiding out of the cave if officials are unable to drain enough water from the cave ahead of expected heavy rainfall. But the operation would, he admitted, be very dangerous.
  • The group could be sustained with food and aid deliveries until the inclement weather subsides. But that could take months. Thailand's rainy season generally lasts until October.
  • Another option would be to drill a hole into the cave and airlift the boys out. Chiang Rai's deputy governor said authorities prefer the diving option.
Rescuers worked for days to find the boys

Rescuers worked for days to find the boys

'Tremendous efforts'

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked international experts and rescuers who helped find the boys.

The prime minister's office highlighted "the tremendous efforts of all international units that have come to assist the Thai authorities in rescuing the youth football team that is stuck in the caves in Chiang Rai ... we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery."

Why were they trapped inside?

The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach went into a cave to celebrate a birthday. They went missing in the cave, which is a local tourist spot, when flooding trapped them inside on June 23.

Why did the search take so long?

Attempts by divers to find the missing team were continually hampered by rising water that has filled sections of the cave and forced them to withdraw for safety reasons. They had hoped to find the team on an elevated ledge called Pattaya Beach. The boys had moved 400 meters further in as the ledge had become covered by water. Doctors said the boys had only slight injuries.

What happens next?

As the monsoon rains begin, water is being pumped out of the caves and a plan is being developed to bring them to safety. Suggestions have included teaching the boys how to dive, and waiting until the waters subside.

"(We are) preparing to send additional food to sustain them for at least four months, and to train all 13 to dive while continuing to drain the water," Navy Captain Anand Surawan said. But authorities said other options are also on the table, including drilling a hole through the cave and pulling them out.  

amp, law, jm/cmk (AFP, dpa)

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