A Thai Navy SEAL team may be forced to stage an extraordinarily perilous rescue mission today in order to free a group of young boys from a cave before the water level becomes too high.
According to the state’s governor, an impending storm could be fatal for the soccer team, who have been stuck inside the vast cave network since June 23.
There is some good news, however. As classmates of the stricken boys stand at the mouth of the cave and hopefully declare: “Believe in God. Only belief can move a mountain,” efforts to pump water out of the Tham Luang Nang Non caves are proving very successful. Some 128 million liters of water removed from the flooded passages, equating to a drop in water level of more than 40cm (15in) since Wednesday. But the clock is ticking, and as the storm approaches, the situation becomes ever more treacherous.
“We are here to pray and sing for them,” fellow classmates told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. We want our friends inside and rescue teams to know that we are sending our support.”
At Mae Sai Prasitsart school, where six of the missing boys attended class, special prayers were held for the junior soccer team during the Monday’s morning assembly.
“I am really worried, but I am hopeful because my friend is strong,” Thanakorn Ingsilapakul, 15, told Reuters. “We pray and send our support to them to give them power to wait for help to arrive,” added school principle, Kanet Pongsuwan.
Classmates and friends of Thai kids trapped in cave sing songs near the entrance pic.twitter.com/5ZnATSOGrE
— Joe Freeman (@joefree215) July 4, 2018
The most likely rescue plan will involve the boys using full-face diving masks to navigate the narrow underwater tunnels with the assistance of SEALS. The problem is, non of them have any diving experience, and many of them cannot even swim. It is a six-hour dive through terrifyingly claustrophobic and narrow underwater passages – a dive that made the hardiest and most experienced of military divers rather apprehensive.
Cade Courtley, a former US Navy SEAL and author of the “SEAL Survival Guide” told CNN that even though he was part of a very specialist dive unit, that “this would be a challenging dive for me and my team.”
“Now you’re going to ask 11 to 15-year-olds — some of whom cannot swim — to make that same journey for the first time breathing air underwater?” he questioned.
Anmar Mirza, national coordinator of the National Cave Rescue Commission noted that this was “one of the toughest rescues” he had ever seen. It has been reported that the military are training the boys how to dive in the event of an urgent evacuation being required.But Mirza said that “trying to teach them enough diving skills to dive them out” is near impossible. “It’s physically strenuous: in water, through blackout conditions, through tight squeezes for hundreds of meters,” he said.
“It’s something that skilled cave divers spend hundreds of hours training for after they have already been open water divers for quite some time,” he told CNN. “A moment of panic or loss of the breathing regulator can be fatal for the novice diver, and may also put the cave diver escorting him in danger.”
In new footage that surfaced yesterday, the boys could be seen in good spirits. “I am healthy,” each boy said after introducing himself on camera. Another said “thank you” for to all those who are attempting to rescue them.
With the unpredictability of the weather causing havoc for rescue planners, Narongsak added that an emergency decision to have the boys dive out the caves may be taken Thursday. “This morning, I have asked for 13 sets of (diving) equipment to be prepared and checked the equipment lists and place them inside (the cave) in case we have to bring them out in this condition with less than 100 per cent readiness,” he said.
Footage of the 12 boys and their soccer coach who are trapped in a Thai cave network shows them wrapped in foil blankets, introducing themselves and saying, "I am healthy." https://t.co/hznNGyI2tE pic.twitter.com/dFPRBVF6ML
— CNN (@CNN) July 4, 2018
According to CNN, one of the rescue divers who has been in contact with the team said the boys have told divers they “heard dogs barking, a rooster crowing and children playing.” This has led rescue teams to investigate whether their might be a chimney opening through which the boys could be lifted – this would certainly be much safer than having each of them dive through the narrow underwater passages.
With the risks of a dive out being clear and obvious, other caving experts have said that it is far from impossible to complete a successful rescue mission in this manner.
“Nobody will teach anyone a full cave course, but trying to get them comfortable with masks, with the breathing, (is) completely different,” said Claus Rasmusen, a certified cave diving instructor based in Thailand who has been helping Thai SEAL team with their rescue planning. “Creating an environment that can make them safely get away, that’s feasible.”
Pray for those trapped, and ask that God would give them and the rescue teams supernatural strength to make it back to their families!