Thai cave rescue: what you need to know

Ambulances carrying two of the rescued boys. Picture: Linh Pham/Getty Images
Ambulances carrying two of the rescued boys. Picture: Linh Pham/Getty Images

JUST five of the 13 members of a Thai junior soccer team, including the coach, remain trapped in a flooded cave after an incredibly delicate operation has led to the rescue of eight of the boys.

Here’s what you need to know to get you up to speed on what’s taking place in Thailand:

– 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered the Tham Luan Nang Non cave on June 23.

– It was 10 days before they were found.

– To escape, they have to negotiate 4km of dark, narrow passages by swimming and using scuba equipment and wading.

– It’s an 11-hour round trip to get in and out.

– Divers need 20 hours to lay air tanks and prepare the route.

– So far there’s been 1 fatality – former Thai navy Seal Saman Kunan died while placing air tanks along the route.

Onlookers cheer as a rescue takes place. Picture: Getty Images

– There are 18 divers, five Thai and 13 foreigners, including Australians taking part in the delicate operation.

– The number of Australians helping with the rescue operation varies depending on rotations, but up to 19 are involved.

– The group includes six Australian Federal Police divers supporting the Thai Navy, together with a liaison officer and interpreter and Dr Richard Harris, a specialist in hyperbaric medicine.

– A 100-strong support team is pumping out litres of water to stop more flooding in the caves.

– 4 boys were taken out on Sunday in 11 hours.

– 4 boys were taken out on Monday in 9 hours.

 

Australian helpers face gruelling conditions

Australian divers helping the dramatic rescue of a young soccer team trapped inside a cave in northern Thailand face a gruelling few days ahead after the Interior Minister said they would not be replaced.

General Anupong Paojinda said the same team of 90 rescue divers, which includes 50 foreigners, would continue the rescue following the successful extraction of four boys on Monday.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has confirmed 19 Australians are involved in the rescue at the Tham Luang cave near Chiang Rai.

Australian Federal Police and Defence Force divers, and doctor and experienced cave diver Richard Harris played key roles in the rescue operation which began at 10am (local time) on Sunday.

General Anupong said the same teams of divers would bring out the remaining eight boys and their coach who have been trapped in the cave for more than two weeks, because they are familiar with the terrain.

But he added the rescue teams would be thoroughly assessed to ensure they were ready and prepared to proceed with the second phase of the rescue operation.

Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the search and rescue operation, said late on Sunday that he expected rescue operations to resume in 10-20 hours because of a need to replace air tanks used by the divers.

But he also warned the entire rescue operation could take three to four days to complete.

As of early Monday afternoon there was no official confirmation the rescue had restarted.

Thai commanders are concerned about rising water levels in the cave and a depleted oxygen supply. They want to extract the remaining nine as quickly as they can before more heavy rains inundate the mountainous area.

Dr Harris has played a crucial role in determining how the rescue would unfold after diving in to make a medical assessment of the boys, aged 11-16, on Saturday.

This cleared the way for the rescue team to pursue the option of diving the boys out in small groups, with each one accompanied by an experienced diver.

Ms Bishop said Dr Harris had been essential to assessing the boys’ health.

“He is an experienced diver, which is a great benefit because he’s brought all that expertise to assist the Thai government in this rescue mission,” she said.

General Anupong said the four boys rescued were in good condition and being treated at Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital in Chiang Rai, about 60 kilometres from Tham Luang.

While he described them as “strong and safe” doctors at the hospital have said there will be “no hugging” allowed when they are reunited with their families later on Monday until blood tests are returned.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha refused to be drawn on how long the rescue mission would take, other than to say “we will do it as soon as possible, in the safest way”.