CHIANG RAI -An inspection of Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai District where 12 young footballers and their coach were trapped last year was cut short on Thursday because several parts of the cave complex remained flooded and oxygen levels were low.
The 35-man clean-up inspection team were forced to turn back three kilometers inside the cave complex. They could not reach a chamber known as “Pattaya Beach” and “Nern Nom Sao” where the footballers were trapped by floodwater.
The passage after that distance became filled with sand and several sections were still flooded, preventing further progress.
The team included officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, and the Naval Special Warfare Command.
It was the first time anyone had been inside the cave following the successful operation to rescue the young footballers and their coach.
Soon after the historic rescue, the cave complex filled with water. However the flooding was expected to have receded by now.
The clean-up inspection team took photos and videos inside the cave, where much equipment had been left behind.
In Chamber 2, more than 100 air tanks, ropes, and water pumps of various sizes were found. In Chamber 3 another 100 air tanks were found along with communication radios.
Deputy DNP chief Chongkhlai Worapongsathon said officials would have to wait another month before trying to reach either Pattaya Beach or Nern Nom Sao.
Rear Admiral Apakorn Yukongkaew, head of the Naval Special Warfare Command, said the amount of equipment and gear found inside the cave complex served as a reminder of the determination shown by the rescuers involved in the mammoth operation.
“Getting into the cave is no problem, but to go deeper and retrieve all the equipment we need to wait for the water to recede further,” he said.
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