Mass prayers held for lost boys

Mass prayers held for lost boys

Independent experts advise new drill site

A rescue worker, with help from colleagues, lowers himself into a shaft found on the eastern side of Tham Luang cave complex. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
A rescue worker, with help from colleagues, lowers himself into a shaft found on the eastern side of Tham Luang cave complex. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch led a mass prayer on Friday for the safety of 12 young footballers and their coach who went missing inside the Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai's Mai Sai district last Saturday.

The prayer for the missing boys aged 11-16 and their 26-year-old coach took place in the evening at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok as part of a public prayer dedicated to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty the Queen as commanded by His Majesty the King.

The ceremony, which was broadcast live, was attended by government figures headed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who yesterday morning travelled to the northern province to give moral support to the families of the missing and rescuers.

Early in the day, tens of thousands of students and teachers at schools nationwide conducted prayers and meditations to send blessings to the local football team nicknamed "The Wild Boars".

In Songkhla, Thai Muslims joined the nation in praying for the safety of the missing group and vowed to keep sending blessings until the boys and their coach were returned safely to their families.

A group of independent scholars, meanwhile, has suggested drilling into the area behind Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district to create a new passageway for attempts to locate 12 boys and their football coach who have been trapped in the labyrinth since Saturday.

The group comprises personnel from the Mae Fa Luang Foundation, academics from Chiang Rai Rajabhat University, officials from the Royal Irrigation Department, the Mineral Resources Department and a group called the Northern Offroad Network.

They have set up a makeshift operations centre at Ban San Pha Sak in tambon Pong Pha of Mae Sai district to brainstorm ideas to support the search and rescue operations.

The group surveyed the rear end of Tham Luang cave known as Martin's shaft -- a crevice which is about 10km west of the cave's entrance.

The group is trying to pinpoint possible points of access to determine if a passageway could be drilled into the cave. Their findings will be presented to the agencies involved in the rescue operation.

Songwit Kaewmahanil, a Mae Fa Luang Foundation official, said that foreigners who have explored the cave told him that they saw light streaming through towards its end, indicating that may be an area where a new tunnel could be drilled.

Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said rescue teams yesterday surveyed a cave called Monk's Series which is located north of the entrance of Tham Luang cave. They abseiled into a ceiling crevice which is about 40 metres deep. However, it was not clear if the crevice would lead them to the missing team.

Mr Narongsak denied reports that a rescue volunteer was electrocuted while helping install a power line yesterday afternoon.

The man only passed out and was taken by ambulance to an army hospital and was in a safe condition, the governor said.

The man was a volunteer from Ubon Ratchathani, there to assist with the search for the 13 missing footballers, he said.

The government will also ask Myanmar to close its Sai River dam temporarily which will help reduce underground water, which in turn will improve drainage of flood water in the cave, Mr Narongsak said.

Gen Prayut was accompanied yesterday to the cave site by Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya and Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda.

The prime minister extended moral support to the rescue teams and the families of those missing.

Water levels were reported to have slightly receded as rain began to let up yesterday.

Efforts continued to pump out enough water for divers to resume the search after heavy rain on Thursday forced rescuers to retreat.

A rescue team led by national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda was sent to the foot of Doi Pha Mee where officials abseiled down a shaft through to lower food, drink and other necessary items.

The Thai Navy Seals posted in a Facebook message yesterday that they had reached a third chamber inside the cave which will lead them to another chamber dubbed "Pattaya Beach'' where the missing people might be waiting for help.

The Office of Police Strategy yesterday dropped food parcels into a crevice leading to a source of water in the cave, hoping the stream would carry the supplies to the missing people. Maps with details of the cave were also included to help guide those trapped inside out.

A team of six cave rescue experts from China's Beijing Peaceland Foundation also arrived yesterday, in addition to three British cave-divers, 32 US specialists from Hawaii and rescue volunteers from Laos.

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