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Thai rescuers still weighing difficult options to extract teen soccer team from cave

THAILAND ACCIDENT CHILDREN CAVE
LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP
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Diving through floodwaters would be extremely precarious; hearing outside noises suggests another route

Rescuers in northern Thailand are still trying to figure out the best way to extract members of a teen soccer team from a cave where they were found Monday. There are few good options.

Claus Rasmussen, who is part of the rescue team, said the 12 boys and their coach told divers they heard dogs barking, a rooster crowing and children playing. That seems to suggest that there is a chimney or hole they can access instead of trying to get the boys out through the water, according to CNN.

But if that’s not possible, the plan to have the teammates, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach, dive through the narrow flooded tunnels in full-face diving masks carries great risks. Some experts say it’s too difficult to bring a group of novices through a cave system that has made even caving experts nervous, according to CNN.

Cade Courtley, a former US Navy SEAL and author of the “SEAL Survival Guide” told the network that he “was part of a very special dive unit and this would be a challenging dive for me and my team… now you’re going to ask 11 to 15-year-olds — some of whom cannot swim — to make that same journey for the first time breathing air underwater?”

The most dangerous option, said Anmar Mirza, national coordinator of the National Cave Rescue Commission and a rescue diver with 30 years’ experience, “is trying to teach them enough diving skills to dive them out. It’s physically strenuous: in water, through blackout conditions, through tight squeezes for hundreds of meters…. A moment of panic or loss of the breathing regulator can be fatal for the novice diver, and may also put the cave diver escorting him in danger.”

Thai Navy SEAL divers have been able to reach the team with food and medicine. Seven of the navy team, including a doctor and nurse, spent Tuesday night in the dark with the boys and their coach, who have been stranded on a small, cramped shelf inside the cave since June 23.

On Wednesday, the youngsters practiced wearing the full-face oxygen masks they’ll need to wear to survive the journey out. They’ve tried using the equipment and breathing with it, but haven’t been submerged in the flood water, as currents are too strong.

With the threat of more rain flooding the chambers, the local governor said water is being pumped out of the cave “at full speed” to reduce water levels.

 

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