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03rd Jul 2018

Boys’ football team lost in Thailand caves have been found, but may be months before being safely rescued

It is believed that the monsoon rains had trapped them inside the Tham Luang cave network, in the south west region of Thailand

Rory Cashin

The local military has dropped in food supplies to last for the next four months.

On Saturday 23 June, a coach and a young football team consisting of 12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing.

It was believed that the monsoon rains had trapped them inside the Tham Luang cave network, in the south west region of Thailand.

On Monday night, after nine days of constant searching, including the use of deep-sea divers, they were discovered in the cave system, and the divers reported that the boys and their coach were crowded together on a ledge, surrounded by water.

A medical team assessed that the boys only had light injuries, and that they were all weak but alive.

However, the divers confirmed that it was far too dangerous to attempt to extract the team under the current conditions.

The primary concern at the moment is that none of the boys can actually swim, with Butch Hendricks, a veteran rescue diver and president of Lifeguard Systems in the US, telling The Guardian that:

“If they’re not afraid of the water, they can be put into equipment they can breathe with, and a full face mask. They may need custom wetsuits so they don’t get so hypothermic they can’t function.

“If a problem occurs in that passageway, we’ve going to have a stall, then they will have a back-up, which could cause life and death.”

The extraction system would work like a relay, where each boy is passed between rescuers.

Walking and climbing out would be a safer option in the long term, but the monsoon rains have flooded the exit routes from the cave system, and it may take months before the water levels drop again.

And just learning to swim won’t be enough, as Bill Whitehouse, vice chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council, said the UK divers described the journey to the chamber where the team are currently situated (via BBC Breakfast):

“The description in (the) email was it was ‘a bit of a gnarly dive’, which means there was a bit of complications and problems.

“(There was) quite a strong current, so they were having to swim against the current and pull themselves along the wall. The visibility in the water wouldn’t have been very good.”

To this end, the military have decided to send in four months worth of food to the boys and their coach, which will last them until the end of the monsoon season, when it will be altogether safer to extract them all, while divers are being in sent in to properly secure the area for them.