Global cooperation shines light in Thai heart of darkness
Discovery of 12 boys and their soccer coach deep in a mountain cave and the ongoing rescue operation show the good countries can do when they unite
The ordeal of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand near the border with Myanmar and Laos is far from over.
Their being found on a rock ledge deep within a mountain on Monday night by British and Thai divers, members of search and rescue teams from at least nine countries, was a great relief for relatives and a watching world after nine days of suspense; some called it a miracle.
The challenge now is to get them out safely and while a strategy is being formulated, to ensure they are properly fed and kept from the harm of anticipated further flooding.
How long that will take and what it will involve for now can only be guessed. An urgent rescue attempt forced by monsoon rains cannot be ruled out, but we can at least be assured that the international community is only too willing to work together.
For inspiration, there is that remarkable video of the initial contact, a British diver, his searchlight going from one face to the other, asking, “How many of you?” to which a boy responds, “13.” “13? Brilliant,” responds the rescuer.
But although the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach, have been located in a cavern in the Tham Luang Nang Non caves in Chiang Rai province, the half a kilometre of submerged passages lined with guide ropes and air tanks the divers took to reach them are muddy, narrow and treacherous.
For now, the best that can be expected is those trapped food, water, medication to stave off disease and, if needed, supplies of oxygen, while having pumps at the ready to keep rising water levels in check.
Locating the 13 was a mammoth task; getting them to freedom could be considerably more challenging, even dangerous. Among the options are teaching them to dive, drilling an escape route through the mountain and waiting until the wet season ends in September or October.
A hoped-for scenario is that the rain will let up, water levels will fall and the group can simply walk out. Whatever the case, thousands of rescuers are standing by to help.
Among them are a 60-strong elite Thai navy team and land and water experts from China, Britain the United States, Japan, Australia, Israel, Laos and Myanmar.
The six Chinese are from the Beijing Peaceland Foundation, which has more than 100 search and rescue teams with expertise in similar operations in mountainous parts of Myanmar and Nepal. Among the others are cave, survival and communications experts.
The technical and physical efforts of the teams working together contributed to locating the young Thais. It has been a spirited joint effort that proves the value of foreign partnership. Prayers have been answered and hopes are high that the 13 will soon be reunited with their families.