CHIANG RAI – Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said on Friday that, officials had been trying all possible means to help the missing 13 and the main job was to drain water as much and as quick as possible out of the cave to enable the Seal teams and foreign cave divers to be able to perform their duty continuously.
It’s the sixth day of the operation to rescue the 12 young footballers and their coach being trapped in Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai. Authorities have been mobilizing all their resources to reach them with the help of experts and rescue teams from several countries but face tough challenges from rough terrains and heavy rains.
Governor Narongsak told the news briefing that police paratroopers from the Naresuan camp and other rescue workers were able to lower themselves about 40 metres into the cave through a shaft at a spot known as Tham Phra.
The rescue team, he added, reported that there was no flooding on the cave floor which was muddy and with water emerging from holes on the floor.
The Hawaii-based United States Indo-Pacific Command (PACOM) has sent a search and rescue team at the request of the Thai government to assist in the search.
The 30-member US search and rescue team reached Chiang Rai yesterday to share its experience in searches and bolster the efforts being made by Thai authorities.
Three rescue experts from England’s Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation arrived at Tham Luang on Wednesday. They brought a specialised radio system that can transmit messages for hundreds of metres through solid rock, as well as diving equipment.
The team in 2014 saved three divers who were trapped in a cave in England’s East Midlands. Their ordeal was similar to the Thai footballers as their exit from the cave was blocked by a flash flood.
Three German diving experts are also on the ground. China and the Philippines have also expressed readiness to send rescue units to the scene if requested by Thailand.
Meanwhile, Deputy national police chief Wirachai Songmetta led 132 police and rescue workers to survey Doi Pha Mee, which is north of the main entrance of the cave to search for possible points of access to the cave.
The change in the search route followed the advice of three British cave divers, who arrived on Wednesday evening to help in the operation.
Currently, the main rescue and search operations are under way to the west of the cave’s entrance, with the location inside the cave dubbed “Monk’s Series” as the destination.
It was believed the missing people might have opted to venture north of the cave’s entrance rather than head to the location in the West dubbed as “Pattaya Beach”.
Pol Gen Wirachai said residents told him there is a chamber lying in the north of the cave. It is as high as 60 metres and 20 metres wide. This location has become a new focal point of attention because a cave chamber may have a ceiling crevice.
The 132 policemen and rescue workers were divided into four search teams to survey the area separately.
Suttisak Soralump, a geotechnical engineer from Kasetsart University, said percussion drilling equipment will be used to bore holes of 10-12 centimetres wide through the hillside of Tham Luang cave so glowsticks and recording devices will be put in to explore the cave inside. It will take one day to drill a stretch of 100 metres to reach inside.
PTT Exploration and Production Plc (PTTEP) was using two drones to survey the exterior structure of the cave and the information will be used to determine where to drill. The drones with 30x optical zooms, fitted with heat sensor equipment can also take three-dimensional pictures.
Thanes Weerasiri, president of the Engineering Institute of Thailand, said plans are to survey ceiling crevices near Doi Pha Mee. People who previously explored the cave inside said there was a steep slope leading up to the ceiling. Drones were being deployed to explore to see how wide the crevices were and whether they could be enlarged, Mr Thanes said.
He also said efforts will be made to drill diagonally into the left side of Tham Luang cave near so-called Pattaya Beach, a dry ground chamber where the missing people might have been waiting for help.
But before the drilling gets under way, electromagnetic waves will be used to examine the rock structures, he said.
Persistent rain overnight raised water levels inside Tham Luang cave and rescuers were forced to pause their search for 12 boys and their football coach. The five-hour storm from Wednesday into the early hours Thursday pushed water levels in the cave higher.
Floodwaters inside Tham Luang cave, exacerbated by continued rain, are blocking attempts to reach the teen footballers and their coach.
Authorities said the 10-kilometre-long cave in Tham Luang cave had four chambers and floodwater had almost reached the main entrance of the cave early Thursday. Consequently, rescuers had to remove their equipment from the cave and wait for the flood level to subside. Local weathermen expected the rain would stop late in the morning.
Outside the cave, 132 police officers were deployed with sniffer dogs trying to find other openings into the cave. Thirty-two US specialists had arrived at the cave from Hawaii and were considering boring into the cave to hopefully save the missing people.
“Divers are ready for another operation once the water level goes down,” a Royal Thai Navy Seal posted in a Facebook message.
The boys, aged 11-16, are members of a local football team nicknamed the “Wild Boars”. They and their 26-year-old coach entered the cave in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai after football practice on Saturday. The mother of one of the players raised the alarm when her son did not return home. Bicycles, shoes and backpacks belonging to the footballers were found near the cave entrance.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will visit the rescue site in a show of moral support for the 13 people trapped in the flooded cave, their families and rescuers.
Meanwhile, China’s embassy has announced that they are sending a team of six rescue experts to Chiang Rai to help find the still-missing 12 young footballers and their coach, according to a press statement from that country’s embassy in Bangkok.
The team is expected to arrive at Chiang Mai International Airport at about 3pm on Friday before travelling to Chiang Rai. They will be bringing high technology equipment, including an underwater robot and a three-dimension spectrometer.
The team has experience in rescuing people trapped from caves in Myanmar and Nepal.