CHIANG RAI – Naval Special Warfare commander Rear Adm Apakorn Yukongkaewhas told a press briefing that Tham Luang cave in Mae Sai district has been closed to the public until Thursday to allow the retrieval of equipment used to rescue the young Wild Boars football team last year.
It will also be closed next week from Tuesday to Friday, inclusively.
Approximately 200 military and civilian officials and volunteers gathered at the cave, in Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non forest park, on Monday morning for a religious ceremony, seeking blessings for the smooth collection of abandoned rescue equipment which began immediately afterwards.
A survey in January found a lot of gear had been left inside the cave’s chambers. It included wiring, air ducts, communication radios, about 300 air tanks, pumps, foil, power gel food, stretchers and ropes used to guide rescuers.
Officials responsible for the rehabilitation of the forest park agreed the present period of low natural water levels was most suitable for the recovery of the equipment.
The first phase of the operation would be over three days, from Monday to Wednesday this week, and the second phase the four days from March 26 to 29, RAdm Apakorn said.
Although the cave itself was closed during these two periods, visitors could still go to other areas of the forest park, including the Emerald Pond about two kilometers away, he said.
On June 23 last year 12 young members of the local Moo Pa (Wild Boars) Academy football team and their assistant coach entered Tham Luang cave after football practice and were trapped in there by a flash flood.
Their plight drew about 10,000 officials and volunteers, including intrepid local and international divers, launched an unprecedented rescue operation which concluded on July 10. All the youngsters and their coach were brought safely out of the cave complex. One volunteer, a former Thai navy special warfare diver, died during the perilous rescue.