Rescuers search caves for soccer team
THAILAND: MORE than 10 boxes containing food, water and maps were sent down a hole in a cave in northern Thailand yesterday, where a youth football team has been trapped for a week, police said.
The boxes, dubbed “hope boxes” by police, each contain snacks, drinks, basic medicines, a map, a pen, a torch and a candle, said Krisana Pattanacharoen, a deputy police spokesman.
In each box, there is also a piece of paper that says: “If you receive this, please mark on the map where you are.
“Everyone will come and help you immediately,” the police spokesman added.
The boxes were lowered down the hole on a rope in the Pha Mee area, located in the northern part of the cave.
Cave experts said there is a possibility the group is there, but said it is more likely they have moved in the opposite direction.
It is the second time officials have sent food down into the cave through a hole without knowing the missing group’s exact location.
However, it is the first time they attempted to communicate with the group.
There has been no sign of the group of 12 boys – aged between 11 and 16 – and their 25-year-old football coach, despite seven days of searching.
The rescue mission has been hampered by heavy rain, which has flooded the Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non Cave in Chiang Rai province, 1 000km north of Bangkok, near the border with Myanmar, where the team is believed to be trapped.
The heavy rains and subsequent flooding have made it necessary for rescuers to drain the cave to enable them to follow the group in.
However, draining operations had to be called off after an accident yesterday in which at least one soldier was accidentally electrocuted.
Thai officials are also seeking alternative routes and methods to reach the team, after diving operations inside the cave had to be suspended since late on Wednesday due to the high water levels.
“We are thinking about making Plan B our Plan A. The water level has receded but it’s still too high to dive in,” Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn told reporters yesterday.
Plan A is to drill the cave to drain it, while Plan B is to find a new entrance to the cave and send rescuers through it, according to Narongsak.
Soldiers have been deployed to find an alternative entrance.
They are on foot, but being aided by drones.
They have found four possible alternative openings to the cave – in addition to the main entrance, which remains flooded – and are determining whether it is safe to send rescuers into the cave through one of these entrances. Underwater divers were still on standby outside the cave yesterday.
Sixteen pumps were installed in the early stages of the rescue mission, but officials were only able to drill holes late on Thursday.
Forty more water pumps were expected to arrive late yesterday, Narongsak added.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told families of the boys to “keep faith” during his first visit to the site.
“Keep faith. I believe they are strong. They will make it,” Prayut told the parents who were camping outside the cave.
“Believe in your own children. Believe in the officials. When they are out I will take all of them to Pattaya,” he added, jokingly referring to Thailand’s famous Pattaya Beach, in an attempt to lighten the mood.
Coincidentally, a sandhill in one of the cave’s large chambers where the group is believed to be located is also named “Pattaya Beach”.
The accident occurred last Saturday, when the group decided to visit the cave after a training session. They have not been seen since.
Only their bicycles were left behind at the cave’s entrance.
Traces of their handprints and footprints were also found inside the cave, officials said.
The parents of the children have been camping out in front of the cave, holding a vigil and praying anxiously for the return of their children. – dpa
Believe in your own children. Believe in the officials