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Thai cave rescue mission: May take months to take boys out

The cave system. Source: SBS News

Nine days after a young children’s soccer team along with the coach went missing in Thailand’s Tham Luang Nang Non cave, rescue teams have found them alive and well.

Though a bit weak and a lot exhausted, the team comprising 12 children between 11 and 16 years of age and their young coach, in his 20s, are now safe, but still inside the cave. High levels of rainwater have flooded the cave and made the rescue operation challenging and time taking. Thai Navy SEALS and rescue teams believe that it may take months before the trapped boys can be taken out of the cave as monsoon season has just begun. This may mean more flooding inside.

Their discovery is seen as a miracle by international rescue teams, which also includes members of the Australian Federal Police. The boys were first spotted by a British diver, who swam two kilometers (1.24 miles) into the pitch-dark cave from the main entrance and up to 1km below the surface.

Mother of one of the boys has been waiting desperately outside the cave for days hoping to hear the news that her son and other kids were all alive and safe.

She said, “Today is the best day. I have been waiting for my son for so many days. I thought he had a 50 percent chance of survival.”

But the rescue operation is indubitably quite challenging. An American Air Force captain on the scene, Jessica Tait, says there are still many challenges ahead.

She said it was a multinational rescue effort and all rescuers were making the tremendous effort on the ground with the help of the Thai partners. She called the boys’ discovery a “miracle”.

Medicines and food items are being transported into the cave for the boys to regain energy and strength for them to be able to move after over nine days of isolation, inactivity, and hunger.  

SBS Urdu talked to Pakistan Thai Chamber of Commerce president Muhammad Anwar, who shared some updates from the country’s capital.

He said the water levels inside the cave were alarmingly high due to which the boys could not be taken out yet. However, he added, the boys were safe and had been responding to the rescuers’ questions. The area is not only hit by a monsoon currently but is a difficult terrain of hills and high peaks near the Thai-Burma border.

Anwar said there was a heavy local and international media presence at the scene and not only journalists but other people were also being taken to the site voluntarily by the government from Bangkok.

Talking about the weather, he said there was non-stop rain, increasing concerns around the rescue operation.

“If there was no rain, it wouldn’t have been so hard to bring these kids out. This is a tourist cave and people visit it all the time. There are tourist destinations and attractions inside the cave, but clearly, these are inaccessible during heavy monsoon season, especially if the cave is flooded.”

Anwar said it wasn’t the first time these kids had gone into this cave, but bad luck struck this time and it started raining heavily, causing a flood inside. He said the cave was about four kilometers deep. 

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