By Pratch Rujivanarom
The operation to rescue the 13 missing Mu Pa Academy football club members was a success, the head of the mission declared on Tuesday after all 13 members were found alive on Monday night on a ledge in the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province following a marathon search operation.
However, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn, who heads the operation, said there were still challenges ahead in bringing them out of the flooded cave in Mae Sai district.
The 12 boys and their deputy football coach, who have been missing since June 23, were found by two British divers in a drama that has gripped the nation.
The governor said the initial estimates of the health of the team members showed they were fine.
“From the video clip shot when the British divers found the boys, they looked exhausted given the fact that they were there without food and water for many days. If we had to choose between green as the best, yellow, and red the worst, they look to be green,” Narongsak said.
It is reported that 16 Navy SEAL divers have been sent to the location, called Nern Nom Sao slope, to stay with the boys to keep tabs on their health and prepare them for evacuation. The divers took some special food such as power gel and water for them.
Narongsak said the process to prepare the boys for evacuation will take a few days and the best way is still being considered. “They will be taken out of the cave, when it is safe enough. The challenge now will be to bring them out safely, as rising water and mud are impeding access.”
Meanwhile, other efforts to access the cave such as through drilling, and finding alternative passages, as well as draining water out of the cave, will continue.
The governor thanked both Thai and international volunteers for their dedication in this operation, which he had earlier described as mission impossible.
The governor praised and gave credits to two British cave diving experts who found the missing team. He did not mention the names but it is understood to be John Volanthen and Richard Stanton.
He appreciated the personnel and equipment support received from the US, the UK, China, Russia, Belgium, Japan, Laos and Israel.
“The crucial factors that made this operation a success were the well organised cooperation and management,” he said.