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Water Drainage Continues to Hamper Rescue Operations at Tham Luang Cave

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CHIANG RAI – Despite success in locating the missing team of young footballers in Tham Luang Cave on Monday night, rescuers now face another huge hurdle, which is finding the safest way to get the boys out of the spot where they are sheltering in the flooded cave.

Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn, in his capacity as head of the rescue operation, commented earlier that the mission now is to evacuate the 12 school boys and their football coach still isolated deep inside Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province.

The governor said proper measures need to be taken before commencing the extraction of the youths.

One precaution is making sure all survivors have fully regained their strength under the monitoring of medical personnel and Navy Seals. Currently Navy Seals are giving diving lessons to the stranded 13, in case extraction by diving and swimming becomes the only real option.

The Governor added that, once the school team exits the cave, they will be transported to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital via helicopters as already practiced, after the young group receives preliminary medical examinations to determine their medical needs.

He further explained that officials will resort to land transportation should the weather become unfavorable for air travel. It takes approximately 45 minutes for an ambulance to travel from the cave to the hospital.

Addressing concerns over the water level inside the cave, the Governor stressed that officials would only evacuate the boys by diving if they are absolutely sure that the process is safe. He added that, such a method does not require all of the school boys to dive at once. Governor Narongsak also said that only those who are physically ready will be eligible for that form of exit.

Meanwhile, Tham Luang operation commander Narongsak Osotthanakorn said on Thursday morning that some volunteers who had not been registered to join the rescue mission had arrived and started pumping water back into the ground. Consequently, the water returned to the partially flooded cave.

“They may have some belief that their technique is effective for ground water drainage, but anything that is not in the plan must be discussed with us first,” said Mr Narongsak, the former Chiang Rai governor.

“We are concerned about rain. We are racing against water. Water is flowing into the cave although we have plugged its channels.”

Mr Narongsak said pumping water out of the cave was the main operation at Tham Luang. Authorities had fully deployed pumps and power lines.

Private sector organizations have sponsored power generators and water pumps for the Luang Cave rescue operation, hoping to expedite the retrieval of Moo Pa Academy youth football team.

Drainage of water from Luang Cave in Chiang Rai province is continuing in a determined effort to bring home the 12 boys and adult coach of Moo Pa Academy youth football team, who became trapped in the cave on June 23.

The Department of Mineral Resources is overseeing the drainage operation and has received additional power generators from the private sector. Another 3-4 water pumps are to be added to speed up the operation. Authorities are picking up the pace of drainage as they anticipate monsoon rains in coming days, which could affect the pace of the rescue operation.

By Nuppol Suvansombut

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