CHIANG RAI – Speaking to the daily news briefing, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said he still could not be specific as to when and how the survivors would be taken out of the cave where they have been stranded since June 23.
He said the rescue teams need to be absolutely certain about the safety of the survivors before they decide on their next course of action, with the physical state of the boys being the most crucial factor.
Rescue teams were giving crash courses in swimming and diving on Wednesday as part of complex preparations to extract a young soccer squad trapped in Tham Luang cave.
Divers, medics, counselors and Thai navy Seals were with the 12 schoolboys and their 25-year-old coach, providing medicines and food while experts assessed conditions for getting them out safely, a task the government said would not be easy.
“The water is very strong and space is narrow. Extracting the children takes a lot of people,” Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn told reporters.
“We are now teaching the children to swim and dive,” he said, adding that if water levels fell and the flow weakened, they would be taken out quickly.
The rescue teams are working around the clock to drain out flood waters from the cave and to block fresh water from flowing in. How much water is drained out is also another crucial factor for the rescue teams to determine when and how to bring the boys out.
The rescue mission has drawn great international support with at least eight nations sending teams to help rescue the 12 boys and their football coach trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave, alongside hundreds of Thais working at the scene since June 23. The international teams sent to assist the operations are all elite cave divers and rescuers.
The UK-based Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organization was among the first to lend a helping hand, sending a team of three experts to the scene.
Two of the Britons, John Volanthen and Richard Stanton, were the first to find the trapped footballers in a dry area almost five kilometers from the cave entrance.
Officials have dismissed as speculation reports that the boys could be trapped for up to four months, although supplies have been prepared for that period of time.
Governor Narongsak also dispelled rumors that there were changes in the top-level personnel supervising the rescue mission. “I want to confirm that I am still in charge,” he said, apparently referring to reports that he had earlier been ordered transferred out of Chiang Rai to become governor of nearby Phayao province.
Sources: Thai PBS, Reuters