Thu, Jul 05, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Authorities vow ‘no-risk’ rescue of boys

HEARTWARMING:While efforts to install a telephone line have failed, Royal Thai Navy special forces divers released video of the 12 boys saying that they are in good health

AFP, MAE SAI, Thailand

Soldiers carry a drainpipe during an operation to rescue a youth soccer team and their coach from a cave complex in Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Thai rescuers vowed to take a “no-risk” approach to freeing 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave, as fresh video emerged yesterday showing the team in good spirits following their astonishing discovery nine days after going missing.

Freeing the boys from the still-submerged cave complex is expected to be a protracted process, fraught with challenges for a group who are not divers and some of whom are believed to be unable to swim.

With a country glued to the rescue mission, authorities insisted that they would only move the boys once their safety can be guaranteed, even though monsoon rains are predicted to soon resume.

“We have to be 100 percent confident that there is no risk to the boys before we evacuate,” Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters.

“We will take care of them like they are our own children,” he said, adding that efforts late on Tuesday to install a telephone line failed, but food, medicine and relief gear have continued to be ferried into the caves.

Authorities are also pumping out water around the clock, aware of the bad weather forecast in the days ahead.

“We want to evacuate all 13 people as soon as possible, but I don’t want to specify [a] day and date,” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said.

The footage, released by the Royal Thai Navy’s Underwater Demolition Assault Unit, features 11 of the 12-strong team, who sent a heartening message to families waiting outside the cave.

Each made a traditional Thai greeting gesture to the camera before introducing themselves by their nickname and saying: “I’m in good health.”

Several of the boys in the footage are wearing protective foil blankets and are accompanied by a smiling diver in a wet suit.

Also seen is the 25-year-old coach, who went with the boys into the cave after soccer practice on June 23.

A one-minute video clip ends on a jovial note, with one of the 12 boys saying that he was forgotten in the round of introductions, sparking laughter.

The images have delighted Thailand, which has held its breath for a successful outcome to a challenging rescue kilometers inside one of the country’s longest cave complexes.

In the video, the boys, who have spent 11 nights underground, appear relaxed and much more alert than when they were when British divers found them late on Monday huddling on a muddy ledge above surging underground waters.

Outside the cave, the mother of one of the boys teared up as she watched the clip on a TV, saying that she was “glad” for a glimpse her son.

“He is thinner,” she said, as she ran her finger over his image — a sign of the heartache the saga has brought to relatives of the trapped group.

Several navy special operations divers have been deployed, along with medics, vowing to stay with the trapped group while the challenging process of evacuating the “Wild Boar” team begins.

Thai authorities said the focus is now building up the boys’ physical and mental strength after an ordeal that has left them emaciated.

After that they have three main options: diving out of the cave system; exiting through another hole, if one can be found — or drilled; or waiting out the rainy season underground.

Experts have said diving out is fraught with risk — more so as the boys have never dived before and some might not be able to swim.

Areas of the cave complex remain submerged and navigating claustrophobic passages in murky rushing waters risks panic, even if the boys have ample equipment, expert support and a crash course in how to dive.

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