When 12 young students and their football coach went missing in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai amid the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system, many expected the worst. But the Thai government, its military, volunteers both in Thailand and from abroad spent 9 days until they were located alive in cave chamber isolated by rising waters.
The rescue efforts are still ongoing. Difficult decisions remain to be made. The trip to and from the location of the students and their coach requires scuba diving. To bring the stranded students out of the cave requires either to somehow drain the water trapping them, or train them to make the dive out of the cave.
Water being pumped out of the cave system has been distributed to the land of local farmers – many of whom eagerly volunteered to have water diverted to their property to aid in whatever way they could to the rescue efforts. The government is nonetheless compensating the farmers for the damage they incur.
The government has mobilized its resources as well as those offered by other nations. It is using newly acquired Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters to access sites around the cave. The US has offered technology in efforts to locate possible exits from the cave, and it was a team of private British divers who were with Thai Navy SEALs when the students were finally found 9 days after they went missing. Other divers and cavers from all over Asia and beyond have also come to over their expertise.
The rescue efforts are not without danger. One Thai Navy SEAL has already died while making the trip to and from the trapped students.
This highlights the risks of at least one of the proposed rescue options – training the students and their coach to scuba dive out of the cave. Rescuers have urged patience, stating that it may be weeks or even months before the students can be brought to safety.
The Bad and the Ugly
The media – both local and foreign – have expressed mostly positive support for the rescue efforts – playing a positive role in informing the public and soliciting volunteers and donations of various supplies and skill sets when needed.