Four of the 13 young footballers trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province were being evacuated yesterday, marking a major success in the complex rescue mission, said mission chief Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said at about 8.30pm.
An ambulance leave the Tham Luang cave area as divers evacuated some of the 12 boys and their coach trapped at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 8, 2018. // AFP PHOTO
The rescue operation for the remaining eight boys and their 25-year-old assistant coach will be conducted as soon as rescuers finish preparation and deploying relevant equipment including oxygen tanks in the cave, Narongsak said.
The process will spend about ten hours, he added.
At press time yesterday, the four boys were already receiving treatment at Chiangrai Hospital.
Earlier, the Royal Thai Air Force’s Facebook fanpage “Air Force Media by Kawin AFU” was among the first to disclose the good news of the evacuation operation. The page informed that two boys, who were not identified, had been successfully brought out of the cave at around 6.10 pm, while another survivor had already reached the Navy SEALs’ operation base in the third chamber of the cave.
An ambulance arrives at hospital after some of the youth soccer team and their assistant coach have been rescued from the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province, Thailand, 08 July 2018. Reports state that rescue operations are underway to safely bring out the 13 members of youth soccer team including their assistant coach who have been trapped in Tham Luang cave since 23 June 2018. // EPA-EFE PHOTO
A military source said earlier that the first two boys who were brought out had already been transferred to the field hospital just outside the cave entrance for a medical check-up.
The source said the operation would be concluded in two days.
Former Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotanakorn, who heads the rescue mission, told a press conference yesterday at 10am that operations had begun to evacuate all the trapped footballers out of the flooded cave, as all factors were suitable for the mission and all the stakeholders, including families of the survivors, had agreed to give the go-ahead.
Under the current operation plan, each trapped footballer is being escorted by two diving specialists through the entire length of the cave to the entrance. Along the way, they have to climb, squeeze themselves through narrow passages as well as dive through the heavily submerged sections of the cave.
The first survivors were able to finally leave the dark confines of the cave 16 days after they were all stranded. The 13 were caught in flash floods during a visit to the cave on June 23, but they managed to find a dry shelf where they remained without food for 10 days until they were located by specialist divers.
“We have finally reached the highest level of preparedness to bring all trapped survivors out of the cave, so we have to seize this perfect opportunity when we have the most readiness to execute this daring mission,” Narongsak said.
“This perfect situation will not last long, as within the next few days there will be storms and heavy rains in the area that can significantly increase flood levels inside the cave and endanger the trapped survivors and all the officers inside.”
Photo from: Thai NavySEAL's Facebook fanpage
Disclosing details of the evacuation plan, he revealed that a total of 18 diving specialists would participate in this mission – 13 are international specialists, while the other five are from Thailand.
They all have the necessary expertise and skills to perform evacuation operations in difficult situations and hostile environments such as inside the flooded cave, he assured.
The decision to go ahead with the operation comes before the arrival today of evacuation pods built by the engineers of SpaceX as assistance from the company’s founder Elon Musk to aid in the evacuation operation. “The major obstacles to our operation are water and time. We have raced against these two challenges since the first day and we still have to race against them on this mission too, so we cannot miss this chance to save these boys” Narongsak said.
He said once the survivors are brought out of the cave, they would be taken into the field hospital for medical examination by 13 medical teams, one for each survivor, in order to determine how to treat them based on three categories: green for healthy, yellow for minor injuries, and red for critical injuries.
KEY EVENTS ON RESCUE OPERATION D-DAY
7.28am Chiang Rai deputy governor invites all relatives of trapped footballers to the operation command office.
9am All reporters are told to leave the Tham Luang cave.
10am Chiang Rai former governor announces launch of rescue operation.
10am First survivor begins exit dive, with two escorts.
Noon Reporters are told to leave area around Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital.
3pm Police close area around Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital to traffic.
5.10pm The first evacuated footballer to reach cave mouth.
7.25pm Four footballers rescued at press time.
Published : July 08, 2018
By : THE NATION MAE SAI, CHIANG RAI