Res­cuers search caves for soc­cer team

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.