Volunteers line up to fix damage from Tham Luang rescue operation

Volunteers line up to fix damage from Tham Luang rescue operation

Community vibes: Volunteers remove tents from a rescue campsite for the 12 boys of the 'Moo Paa' football team and their coach, near the Tham Luang cave complex.
Community vibes: Volunteers remove tents from a rescue campsite for the 12 boys of the 'Moo Paa' football team and their coach, near the Tham Luang cave complex.

CHIANG RAI: The group of 13 from the Moo Paa Football Academy and the platoon of rescue staff may have left the Tham Luang Cave in Mae Sai district but the atmosphere at the cave remains vibrant and joyful.

Yesterday, more than 4,000 volunteers came to join a Big Cleaning Day event. The event was created to improve the landscape of the cave. The event will run for two days and is expected to end today.

The event started at 9am, with the opening ceremony presided over by the Air Vice Marshal Supichai Soonthornbura, the deputy secretariat general for the Bureau of the Royal Household.

A strong sense of community and goodwill could be felt at the event. Most of the volunteers -- from the public and private sectors said they had registered on Thursday.

Among the volunteers are Mr Ricky Tan, a 62-year-old Singaporean who lives in Chiang Rai with his wife, Naruemon Tan, a 47-year-old native of the city. The couple also brought along their five-year-old daughter to help.

"I have lived here for seven years with my wife and I am more than happy to offer my help here. I want to show that I am part of the community and how much I love local people here," Mr Tan said. "I have been watching this news from day one and I felt a responsibility to help. Since I can't offer any help in the cave, this is the best I can do to give something back to the city."

Ms Naruemon, who monitored the news daily, said she prayed for the safe return of the kids.

"I would like to help the community in any way possible," said Ms Naruemon.

The cleaning activity allows all volunteers to work in five designated area: Tham Luang cave, Sai Thong cave, Doi Pha Mee, Kew Ko Nang, the temples around the cave area, and park officials' residences.

The forested area around Tham Luang Cave, which is ecologically sensitive and fragile, was used as the site to set up heavy equipment to rescue the 12 young players and their coach from the flooded cave.

Limestone rocks were drilled to allow rescue operators to gain access to the cave system. Ground adjacent to the cave was also drilled to permit water drainage.

After the Big Cleaning event, the cave will be closed for six months, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP). About 42 million baht has been earmarked for rehabilitation of the area which includes converting a portion of the cave into a museum.

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