Rescue chief expects ‘good news in a few hours’ from Thailand cave mission

Eight boys and the coach remained inside the Tham Luang cave as authorities paused the international effort to replenish air tanks along the treacherous exit route

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 11:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 4:40pm

Authorities are resuming extractions of a youth soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand a day after four boys were rescued.

The dangerous mission began Sunday with rain threatening to raise water levels inside the Tham Luang cave complex where the team have been stranded two weeks.

After the first round of extractions, rescuers suspended operations to reinstall air tanks along the exit route that will be used by the remaining boys and divers as they navigate flooded areas inside the cave.

“All the equipment is ready. Oxygen bottles are ready... in next few hours we will have good news,” Rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters, after announcing the second phase of the rescue bid had begun.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was expected to visit the site later Monday, after first travelling south to Phuket, where a boat capsizing resulted in 42 deaths, mostly tourists from China.

Will Thai junta use cave rescue of soccer team to save itself?

Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said the same group of divers would conduct Monday’s rescue to avoid mistakes made on Sunday, because they know the exit route and conditions inside well.

Anupong said the four pulled from the cave – affectionately dubbed by Thai social media Wild Boars 1,2,3,4 – “are strong and safe” and in the care of doctors.

With authorities releasing few details of the rescue bid, parents continued their agonising wait to be reunited with their sons.

“I am still waiting here at the cave, keeping my fingers crossed to see whether my son will be one of those to come out today,” Akkarat Wongsukjan, a mother of Pheerapat – known by his nickname “Night” – said.

“We heard four boys are out but we do not know who they are. Many parents are still here waiting. None of us has been informed of anything.”

But she added she was “happy” at the prospect of seeing her son again.

To get the boys out, divers will be forced by the narrow passages to accompany them one at a time.

None of the boys have scuba diving experience and experts have warned they could easily panic while swimming underwater in darkness.

The lack of space has added complexity to storing enough canisters of oxygen along the route out.

The death of a former Thai Navy Seal diver who ran out of oxygen in the cave on Friday underscored the danger of the journey even for professionals.

Ambulances arrived early Monday at the cave entrance.

The hordes of global and local media have been kept back from the cave and the hospital in Chiang Rai where the boys are believed to be under observation.

The ordeal has riveted Thailand and captured the world’s attention. The search and rescue operation has involved dozens of international experts and rescuers, including a US military team.

US President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday: “The US is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety. Very brave and talented people!”

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Kyodo