Thai cave rescue: 'Cautious optimism' after strong start saves four boys

Larry Hoffman
July 9, 2018

Officials said Saturday they were aiming to rescue the boys before seasonal monsoon rains hit, which could flood the caves.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after their soccer practice on June 23 as they set out to explore the Tham Luang cave complex in Northern Thailand.

Monsoon flooding had initially cut off their escape, and rescuers were unable to find them for more than a week.

Narongsak said that conditions inside the cave were the best they could hope for and that water levels were now so low after days of good weather and constant draining that long stretches of the passage were now walk-able. One boy's note said: "I'm doing fine, but the air is a little cold, but don't worry".

Many have praised him following reports that he gave his share of food to the kids before they were located, and helped them get through nine days in the darkness.

It's unclear how long the complex and risky rescue effort will take, but it could be days.

She said members of the 353rd U.S. Special Operations Group and U.S. military pararescue teams, survival specialists, divers and medical personnel are on the ground in support of the Thai-led global rescue effort. Chiang Rai's deputy governor said authorities prefer the diving option. Chiang Rai acting Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn says 13 ambulances and helicopters in two separate locations are ready to transport them to hospitals.

It was announced the next dive will take place 10 to 20 hours after the first was completed.

The latest update, albeit a sad one, is that a former Thai military Navy SEAL diver who was involved in the rescue mission is now dead.

Narongsak told media the healthiest boys have been taken out first, with the remaining expected to prove a bigger challenge for rescue teams.

To make matters worse, rescuers are facing a "war with water and time" as risky monsoon storms and torrential rainfall could derail the mission.

Initial euphoria over finding the boys alive quickly turned into deep anxiety as rescuers struggled to find a way to get them out. "It is very challenging and physically arduous", he said.

On Friday, officials warned that oxygen levels in the cave dropped from 21% to 15%, complicating rescue efforts.

A Thai policeman guards an area under rainfall near the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province, July 7, 2018.

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