By The Nation
A MASSIVE RESCUE operation to reach the 12 young footballers and their coach trapped in a flooded Chiang Rai cave yesterday ended its seventh day with some advances but no success in pinpointing the missing team.
The rescue mission is being waged on all possible fronts, including flying drones and dropping survival boxes containing cellphones, food and flashlights through cracks in the mountain above the cave in the hope that they might reach the group.
With rising floodwaters hindering efforts to reach the group from the 10-kilometre-long cave’s only known entrance, rescue teams continued to look for alternative ways into the complex.
A search team utilising information from cave rescue experts flown in from the United Kingdom has found the most promising looking shaft to date. Paratroopers in the morning descended into the shaft to a depth of 11 metres, before it levelled out then plunged a further 11 metres.
Discovered after topographical analysis in collaboration with foreign experts, the shaft boosted hopes of locating the missing group, who are believed to have been stranded inside the cave by flash floods.
Efforts are now being focused on this shaft, which is now considered the best potential alternative entry.
Photographs taken deep inside the shaft are being relayed back to planners and analysts in an effort to forge a strategy to gain access to the cave. GPS images indicate the mouth of the shaft sits just 60 metres above a main hall of Tham Luang Cave.
Meanwhile, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn revealed that rescuers had dropped about 40 metres down the shaft before it levelled out. They expect to explore further below the shelf to see if the shaft connects to the main chamber.
Hopes were raised after a series of photos posted on the Navy Seal Facebook page revealed the SEAL divers had advanced as far as the third chamber inside the cave.
The chamber is connected to the dry area dubbed Pattaya Beach where the missing team is believed to be sheltering.
The video clip shows two divers laying electric cable before returning to the chamber. Facebook video clips released earlier show strong water currents inside the chamber where high water levels leave little or no air space for divers to breath.
The SEAL teams continue to face almost zero visibility in the cave’s muddy water and unknown terrain.
Outside the cave, efforts to drain the floodwater by drilling wells yesterday were not successful.
Every section of Thai society is lending a hand with the rescue efforts, joined by personnel from several foreign countries.
Experts from Laos, the UK, US and Japan are on site in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district to provide assistance. China yesterday said it would send six cave-rescue experts with experience in Myanmar and Nepal. They will arrive with hi-tech equipment including an underwater robot.
Rescue officials have dropped dozens of survival boxes containing food, maps and mobile phones into shafts near the cave, hoping they will reach the trapped team.
The “hope boxes” also contained snacks, drinks, candles, blinker, pens for marking, mobile phones, flashlights and a lighter.
Each box contains a message asking the finder to phone the rescue team and tell them their location and the extent of their water and medical supplies. The message also says, “Please mark on the map where you are. Everyone will come and help you immediately.”
The boxes were dropped into waterways and open channels at Doi Pa Mee cliff located upstream of Tham Luang Cave in the hope they will float towards the missing group.