Sunday,21 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1401, (12 - 18 July 2018)
Sunday,21 April, 2019
Issue 1401, (12 - 18 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly


Al-Ahram Weekly

Tense international efforts to rescue a group of boys stuck in a cave at the base of the Nang Non Mountains in Northern Thailand, which so gripped the world’s attention, seem to have drawn to a close.

The 12 boys, all part of the Wild Boar Football Club, along with their coach have been successfully removed from the waterlogged subterranean cavern in which they had been trapped for over two weeks. The efficient operation, which was fighting a battle against time with the ever-present threat of the resumption of summer rains, was undertaken in successive waves beginning Saturday by an expert team of Thai Navy Seals with the help of scuba diving equipment.

The news of the disappearance of the boys, all aged between 11 and 16, on 23 June, following the flooding of the cave complex by sudden torrential monsoon rains, triggered an international reaction. Cave diving experts were flown in from the UK and 17 US Air Force rescue and survival specialists were dispatched from Japan, to say nothing of the initial 132 Thai soldiers and policemen who tirelessly set up and administered a base of operations at the cave’s entrance.

As the days passed and the urgency to find the boys grew, more and more personnel were dispatched to the scene by the Thai government as international and regional support arrived in the area. Eventually, there were over 1,000 personnel working around the clock in the immediate surrounding area.

US Air Force Captain Jessica Tait said of the mood at the rescue encampment that “we’ve all been in here as family, working together, and I never sensed anyone being demotivated.”

After nine days they were discovered by two English divers, John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, two kilometres from the cave’s mouth, stuck on a ledge above the floodwater. In the dramatic video taken of their discovery, the boys were seen huddled in the dark, clearly tired, emaciated and emotionally shattered, but nevertheless jubilant that help was on its way.

Although, the idea of leaving the boys in the cave to wait out the monsoon season was considered, with the plan of delivering supplies to them regularly, it was quickly deemed unfeasible and efforts began to prepare for their rescue before the forecasted resumption of torrential rain.

The danger that the rescuers and the children were in was made tragically clear when a diver, an ex-Thai Seal called Saman Kunan, lost consciousness and died last Friday while delivering tanks full of oxygen to the boys in the chamber.

Following the death, Elon Musk, the billionaire South African founder of Space-X and Tesla, sent an engineering team to assist in the efforts. He hoped that his organisation’s technical experience would assist in the efforts of pumping out floodwater and offered the use of a mini submarine which he called Wild Boar, in homage to the boys’ football team.

Throughout the entire process, family members and friends have waited in the area, wracked with fear and worry, liaising with rescuers about developments in the operation and praying for the boys’ deliverance.

Although, thankfully, none of the boys are reportedly in any serious medical danger, on coming out they have all been dispatched to nearby Chiang Rai Hospital to be thoroughly examined and treated. They had to be put in quarantine until tested for possible infections before they are finally reunited with their relieved families.

Leaders from around the world have been quick to celebrate the boys’ dramatic rescue and congratulate the international team that worked so hard to achieve it.  (photo: AFP)

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