Seal divers push deeper into cave

Seal divers push deeper into cave

Less rain, progress with pumping boosts prospects

Rescue efforts for the 12 young footballers and their coach picked up yesterday with Navy Seal divers pushing deeper into the Tham Luang cave complex and the police search party trying to enter from the surface, drilling a shaft further from the mountainside.

Less rain and better weather conditions helped rescue teams make more progress but so far none has made contact with the missing people.

Hopes remain high that they are still alive, as the search enters the second week.

Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said rescue teams had made progress on several fronts, especially with pumping water out of the cave after huge water pumps arrived to speed up the process.

He said the water was gradually receding and was less muddy, which showed that efforts to block runoff from entering the cave were yielding fruit.

According to the governor, Navy Seal divers have also deployed oxygen tanks every 25 metres inside the cave for emergency use.

They reached an area known as Chamber 3, taking them closer to the area known as Pattaya Beach, where the missing people were believed to have taken shelter since they went missing since last Saturday.

Earlier, the divers reached the same spot but were forced back by flood water.

all together now: Rescue workers practise drills using a helicopter in Mae Sai district, as rescue operations continue for the missing footballers and their coach lost in the cave.

The rescue operations involve four tasks: draining water out of the cave; surveying the mountain to find entrances from the surface; blocking underground water from flooding the cave; and surveying the cave to determine if it is possible to drill holes to facilitate the search.

A number of the cave complex's underground passages were flooded with mud, severely impairing visibility for divers.

It is believed the boys and their coach were trapped inside by rising flood water caused by heavy, continuing rain.

As the search continued, rescue teams held evacuation and medical drills yesterday morning to prepare for the rescue if the missing people were located. Ambulances and helicopters were on standby for the drills.

Speaking afterwards, the Chiang Rai governor said the drills showed that rescue teams had hard work ahead and plans would be adjusted to after several shortcomings in the evacuation drill including traffic hitches.

For example, motorists failed to give way and rescue teams lacked experience in handling this kind of operation so the ambulances could not reach the destinations within the specified time.

"If these things happen on that day [when the missing people are rescued], it will be really exhausting," he said.

Concern for the missing footballers and their coach has sparked international rescue efforts.

The Restoration Council of the Shan State (RCSS) yesterday said it was ready to assist in the operation and extended support to the families of the missing people.

A team from China arrived yesterday with high technology equipment and was briefed on the rescue efforts.

A group of eight bird's nest collectors from Trang's Kantang district in the South was also on route to Mae Sai.

A US team has been deploying ultrasonic sensors for underwater navigation in the turbid water.

Infrared body heat detectors, to help locate those missing, and diver propulsion vehicles were also being deployed.

The Tourism Police Bureau yesterday provided two teams of English and Chinese translators to facilitate the operations.

Meanwhile, the bustling site was being reorganised and the people were strongly urged not to livestream events as it disrupts operations and can lead to miscommunications or the wrong information being relayed.

Mr Narongsak also said specialists were urged to provide information to the operation centre and refrain from giving it to the media to avoid miscommunication.

The developments come after His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch led a mass prayer on Friday for the safety of 12 young footballers and their coach; and after a visit to the cave by the deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, who came under fire on social media after clips appeared to show him delaying the operation.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also made a visit to the site early on Friday, despite criticism that the influx of high-powered officials could hamper the search.

However, observers said the mass prayer for the missing boys and their 26-year-old coach, which took place in the evening at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok, has helped restore unity amid an outpouring of artwork by netizens on social media designed to offer the boys' families some moral support.

The prayer ceremony, which was broadcast live, was attended by government figures headed by the prime minister. Early in the day, students and teachers at schools nationwide conducted prayers and meditations to send blessings to the local football team nicknamed "The Wild Boars".

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