Thailand cave rescue: Volunteers accidentally pump back water into flooded cave where 12 boys are trapped
Although the boys have been found, the international search and rescue team is still there, considering options to get them out as authorities say that the rescue is tricky.
Some volunteers of the Thailand search and rescue mission accidentally pumped water back into the partially flooded cave on Thursday where a soccer team — 12 boys and a coach — have been stranded for days. Officials said that the incident occurred when the rescuers were attempting to pump the water out before fresh rainfall.
Operation commander Narongsak Osotthanakorn said that the goof-up was made by the unregistered volunteer helpers when they decided to direct the flow of extracted water into the ground. This resulted in a stream of water returning to the Tham Luang cave, further hindering the rescue process, according to Bangkok Post.
"They may have some belief that their technique is effective for groundwater drainage,” Osotthanakorn said. "Anything that is not in the plan must be discussed with us first. We are concerned about rain. We are racing against water. Water is flowing into the cave although we have plugged its channels," Osotthanakorn added, referring to water extraction efforts in an attempt to prevent the cave from getting completely flooded in case of fresh rainfall.
The boys and the 25-year-old coach were first spotted by a team of elite British divers on Monday who volunteered to help in the search and rescue efforts. The divers — one of the best in the world — succeeded in spotting the team huddled together on a rocky slope in the darkness, emaciated.
Although the boys have been found, the international search and rescue team is still there, considering options to get them out as authorities say that the rescue is tricky and it could take days or even months for them to be safely taken out of the labyrinth.
The search effort was reportedly led by the Thai military, including specifically trained Royal Thai Navy SEAL divers, and two volunteer British cave divers. This team succeeded in spotting the group of 12 boys aged between 11-16 and their soccer coach. Reports state that these divers have frequently worked together on major search and rescue operations across the world.
The soccer team, which calls themselves Wild Boar, was found on Monday night after they went missing during an excursion with their coach when they decided to walk into the Tham Luang cave network on June 23 and were trapped because of the rising waters.
The rescue teams' priority right now is to bring food and first aid to the victims and to extract the water out of the cave. As of now, a doctor and a nurse are inside the cave, helping the team with digestible, high-energy food with vitamins and minerals.
The team reportedly had very little to eat for ten days. Though the families and the team are overjoyed that they have been found, rescue work seems to be hampered quite often mainly because of the constant rains and the cave's structure.
Since the water is quite muddy, visibility for the rescue team is proving to be difficult. Also as some of the sections of the cave are quite narrow, the divers are not able to carry in equipment as well. The authorities are now reportedly teaching the entire soccer team how to dive as they think of other alternatives to get them out of the cave.
The rescue commander stressed how they could not risk the cave being flooded. The rescue teams are assessing how many days they have to pump the water out so as to bring it to manageable levels and also calculate the number of hours they have in hand if the water level cannot be maintained. Japanese engineers have set up a pump system which is helping to take the water out by one centimeter per hour.
Telephone lines are being taken into the cave but it takes close to 11 hours to get in and out of the spot where the team has taken shelter in the cave. The path back to the entrance is cramped and is partially submerged. The rescuers are insisting that they will not bring the boys out until they find a totally safe way. Another option they are looking at is to find an opening on the ground surface, up the mountain, above Noen Nom Sao where rescuers could bore a shaft for a possible alternative evacuation.