Thai Cave Rescue: From fun trekking to nightmare, the story of a nerve-wracking mission

Thai Cave Rescue: From fun trekking to nightmare, the story of a nerve-wracking mission

One of the most extraordinary and dramatic rescue missions in living memory. Twelve members of a Thai soccer team and their coach who had been trapped inside the cave after they took a hike inside were finally rescued on Tuesday (July 10) from a cave in Thailand.

Thailand celebrated the successful mission to free 12 boys and their football coach from a cave, with the nation heaping praise on the rescue team as the triumphant tagline “Hooyah” pinballed across social media. The nerve-shredding three-day mission ended on Tuesday after four boys and the coach emerging from the cave which had held them captive for 10 days.

Where was the Thai soccer team stuck?

The 12 boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach Ekaphol “Ake” Chantawong from the Wild Boars soccer team were reported missing, on June 23. They had gone in to explore the complex Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand, on the border of Myanmar, after soccer practice. A day later, on June 24, handprints and footprints were found in the cave and it is believed the group had to retreat into the cave’s tunnel system and were trapped by the flooding rain.

The Rescue operations

Each of the boys, ages 11 to 16 and with no diving experience, was guided out by a pair of divers in the three-day high-stakes operation. The route, in some places just a crawl space, had oxygen canisters positioned at regular intervals to refresh each team’s air supply.

The first rescue operation began on Sunday (July 8) as five Thai Navy Seals and 13 foreign divers entered the cave, and four boys were rescued. The second rescue operation began on July 9 and four more boys were rescued. And the third rescue operation, which was the last, was conducted on July 10. In the third rescue attempt, four more boys and their coach were rescued, which marked as an end to the rescue operation.

What was the rescue process?

Each child was fitted with a full face mask for the dive. Most, if not all, of the children, have never swum before, so they were accompanied by two divers. One diver cradled the child underneath and a second diver swam behind.

The difficulties

Authorities mulled ideas such as drilling holes into the mountain or waiting months until monsoon rains ended so they could walk out, with the rescue chief at one point dubbing the efforts to save them “Mission Impossible”. With oxygen levels in their chamber falling to dangerous levels and monsoon rains threatening to flood the cave above the ledge where the boys were sheltering, rescuers decided on the least-worst option of having divers escort them out through the tunnels.

The escape route was a challenge for even experienced divers. The boys had no previous diving experience so the rescuers trained them how to use a mask and breathe underwater via an oxygen tank.

Navy Seal personnel loses life

On July 6, former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Gunan, 37, died while trying to set up an airline for the boys. He passed out from lack of oxygen while returning from the boys’ chamber.

Elon Musk help refused

The dramatic Thai cave rescue gathered support from all over the world. American space entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk, on July 10, during rescue operation offered to help the rescuers. He offered his prototype Mini-sub to help for rescuing stranded soccer team. But Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn rejected to take help from Musk and said: “Although his technology is good and sophisticated, it’s not practical for this mission.” The dreams of Elon Musk of becoming real-life Tony Stark (Iron Man) was shattered, but he also defended his stance and wrote on Twitter, “The former Thai provincial governor (described inaccurately as “rescue chief”) is not the subject matter expert. That would be Dick Stanton, who co-led the dive rescue team.”

FIFA World Cup 2018 final and Manchester United invitations

The football’s governing body FIFA had invited the players of Wild Boars to see the FIFA World Cup final, which will be held Russia’s Moscow in Luzhniki Stadium. However, after the rescue of 12 Thai boys from the cave, the team was instructed to stay in the hospital for at least seven days.

Manchester United tweeted an invitation just after the news that all had been rescued which said “#MUFC is relieved to learn that the 12 footballers and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand are now safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected. We would love to welcome the team from Wild Boars Football Club and their rescuers to Old Trafford this coming season.”

(Inputs from Agencies)


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