When 12 boys and their soccer coach disappeared in a network of caves in Thailand, rescue workers were boldly optimistic that they would be found alive. The passageways flooded behind them, trapping the kids inside the cave. They were found alive, 9 days later, but they may have to stay under ground for months.
More rain is in the forecast, and those rains will hamper the efforts to get them out. A team of international rescue divers has found the boys, and provided them with liquid food, but the kids can’t get back through the flooded passage ways.
With the additional rains coming, they face a difficult decision. They can stay underground and hope the waters don’t continue to rise, or rescuers can teach the boys how to use the scuba equipment in the hopes that, one-by-one, they might escape.
Two doctors have volunteered to stay with them for as long as it takes. Many see this as the only practical solution as these boys can’t swim.
If they do stay, “two of Thailand’s Navy doctors have already volunteered to stay in the underground chamber for as long as it takes in what is being described as a ‘huge sacrifice’,” The Daily Mail writes.
The Mail put together this infographic above which illustrates the situation.
Thai SEAL team members are with the boys now, giving them energy gels and medicine. The temperatures in the cave are not cold, so they aren’t in danger of hypothermia.
“Teams have been pumping 10,000 liters of water out of the caves every hour,” DM writes. “But this is only enough to lower the level by one centimeter and more rain is forecast sparking fears it will threaten the air pocket where the team has taken refuge.”
Swimming is one issue, yet these kids might be able to pull themselves along the guide line that connects them to the outside world. Or they may not have the strength to make the journey.
For those worrying about the weather, this looks like the best option. “As rain is forecast in the next few days, the evacuation must speed up. Diving gear will be used. If the water rises, the task will be difficult. We must bring the kids out before then,” Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda told reporters.
“Diving is not easy. Those who have never done it will find it difficult, because there are narrow passages in the cave. They must be able to use diving gear. If the gear is lost at any moment, it can be dangerous to life.”
Ben Reymenants, a Belgian cave diver, was part of the team that made contact with the boys. “They can’t swim, so they definitely can’t dive…The easiest [option] would be that they [people trying to rescue those in the cave] keep pumping the water out of the cave,” he told reporters.
“They need another three or four feet so they can literally float them out with life jackets, but time is not on their side. They’re expecting heavy thunderstorms and rain which might flood the entire cave system, making the rescue impossible at that stage.”
The future, at this point, is as uncertain as it ever is, but the lives of 13 people hang in the balance.