Extraction Effort Begins: Thailand sending team of ‘all-star’ divers to help trapped boys, coach

Rescue workers move air tanks at the Tham Luang cave area as operations continue for the 12 boys and their coach trapped at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 8, 2018.
Thai authorities told media on July 8 to leave a camp site near the cave where 12 boys and their coach have been trapped for more than two weeks so that “victims” could be helped, possibly signalling a long-awaited rescue effort to get them out. / AFP PHOTO / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA
Rescue workers move air tanks at the Tham Luang cave area as operations continue for the 12 boys and their coach trapped at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 8, 2018. Thai authorities told media on July 8 to leave a camp site near the cave where 12 boys and their coach have been trapped for more than two weeks so that “victims” could be helped, possibly signalling a long-awaited rescue effort to get them out. / AFP PHOTO / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA

Today is the day. Efforts to extract 12 young soccer players and their coach, trapped in Chiang Rai province’s flooded Luang Cave since June 23, officially began at 10am as 13 expert divers entered to make the much-anticipated attempt.

Six days after divers first made contact with the boys in a deep chamber of the complex cave system, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters that the extraction operation is now underway though refused to provide technical details of the operation.

“There is no other day that we are more ready than today,” he said at a press conference. “Otherwise we will lose the opportunity.”

The 13-member team includes divers from across the world, with five additional SEAL members.

“Let’s say they’re the world’s ‘all-star team.’ These 13 divers, they’ve practiced together all the time,” Narongsak said.

Narongsak said he considered three things before ordering the start of the rescue operation: the weather, the water level, and the boys’ physical and mental wellbeing. He said that the water level was now at its lowest point since rescue efforts began two weeks ago, and that the first three main chambers of the cave are currently walkable. Meanwhile, a storm is expected to hit the site soon, which could further delay the rescue.

“All 13 have been informed of our mission and they said they’re ready,” Narongsak said.

“They insist that they’re ready for any challenges. Their family has also been informed of the rescue operation.”

Narongsak said the earliest the first boy could be brought out of the cave today would be about 9pm, after which they would either be flown or driven to the hospital.

Asked if Thailand had accepted technology from US tech guru Elon Musk — who had made the offer in a recent series of Twitter messages — in the rescue operation, the governor refused to answer.

The American business magnate and engineer said in a tweet at 1am today that he could provide the rescue team a submarine that’s small enough to get through narrow gaps for divers to bring the boys out.

Got more great feedback from Thailand. Primary path is basically a tiny, kid-size submarine using the liquid oxygen transfer tube of Falcon rocket as hull. Light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps. Extremely robust,” he tweeted.

But given that Musk said assembling the small sub would take eight hours, and it would take another 17 hours to be flown to Thailand it seems impossible it could be employed in today’s efforts.

The official Facebook page of Thailand’s Navy SEALs posted a photo of two rescuers join hands before the mission started.

“We are joining our forces — the Thai and international team — to bring the Wild Boars team home.”

https://www.facebook.com/ThaiSEAL/photos/a.1393158180807577.1073741828.1393136284143100/1640849216038471/?type=3&theater

Coconuts will keep you updated on the rescue mission.

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