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Tham Luang cave rescue
Rescue equipment in Tham Luang entrance chamber (cropped).jpg
Rescue personnel and equipment at the cave entrance
Date 23 June – 10 July 2018
(18 days)
Location Tham Luang Nang Non cave, Mae Sai, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand[1]
Coordinates 20°22′54″N 99°52′06″E / 20.38167°N 99.86833°E / 20.38167; 99.86833Coordinates: 20°22′54″N 99°52′06″E / 20.38167°N 99.86833°E / 20.38167; 99.86833
Type Cave rescue
Cause Monsoon flooding[2]
Outcome Group found alive on 2 July; all rescued between 8 and 10 July 2018.[3][4][5]
Deaths Saman Kunan, rescue diver[6]
Non-fatal injuries Minor scrapes and cuts, mild rashes,[7][8] lung inflammation[9]
Location within Thailand

The Tham Luang cave rescue, also referred to as the Thailand cave rescue, involved the extraction of members of a junior football team trapped in a cave in the Chiang Rai Province of Thailand. Twelve members of the team, aged eleven to seventeen, and their 25-year-old assistant coach entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on 23 June 2018 after finishing football practice. Shortly afterwards, heavy rains partially flooded the cave, trapping the group inside.

Efforts to locate the group were hampered by rising water levels and strong currents, and no contact was made for more than a week. The rescue effort expanded into a massive operation amid intense worldwide public interest. On 2 July, after advancing through narrow passages and muddy waters, British divers John Volanthen and Richard Stanton found the group alive on an elevated rock about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from the cave mouth. Rescue organisers discussed various options for extracting the group, including whether to teach them basic diving skills to enable their early rescue, wait until a new entrance was found or drilled, or wait for the floodwaters to subside at the end of the monsoon season months later. After days of pumping water from the cave system and a respite from rain, the rescue teams hastened to get everyone out before the next monsoon rain, which was expected to bring a potential 52 mm (2.0 in) of additional rainfall and was predicted to start around 11 July.

Saman Kunan, a 37-year-old former Thai Navy SEAL, died of asphyxiation on 6 July during his return dive deep within the cave to a staging base in the cave after delivering supplies of air.[10] Between 8 and 10 July, all of the boys and their coach were rescued from the cave by an international team.

The rescue efforts included a total of over 10,000 people – including more than 100 divers, many rescue workers, representatives from about 100 governmental agencies, 900 police officers, 2000 soldiers, ten police helicopters, seven police ambulances, more than 700 air canisters, and the pumping of more than a billion litres of water out of the caves.

Contents

DisappearanceEdit

 
Doi Nang Non, "Mountain of the Sleeping Lady". When viewed from this angle, it is said to resemble a lady lying on her back.
Thai news report from NBT news (no subtitles)

Tham Luang Nang Non is a karstic cave complex beneath Doi Nang Non, a mountain range on the border between Thailand and Myanmar.[11] The system is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) long and has many deep recesses, narrow passages and tunnels winding under hundreds of metres of limestone strata. Since part of the cave system is seasonally flooded, a sign advising against entering the caves during the rainy season (July–November) is posted at the entrance.[12]

On 23 June 2018, a group of twelve boys aged between 11 and 17 from a local junior football team named the Wild Boars and their 25-year-old assistant coach, Ekapol Chantawong,[13] went missing after setting out to explore the cave. According to early news reports, they planned to have a birthday party in the cave after the football practice, and spent a significant sum of money on food, but they refuted this in a news conference after the rescue.[14] The team was stranded in the tunnels by sudden and continuous rainfall after they had entered the cave.[15] They had to leave at least some food supplies behind when fleeing the rising water.[16][17][18][19]

Around 7 p.m., head coach Nopparat Khanthavong checked his phone, finding about twenty missed calls from parents worried that their children had not come home. Nopparat dialed assistant coach Chantawong, followed by a number of the boys in quick succession. Eventually, he reached Songpol Kanthawong, a 13-year-old member of the team who mentioned he was picked up after practice, and that the rest of the boys had gone exploring in the Tham Luang caves. The coach raced up to the caves finding abandoned bicycles and bags near the entrance, with water seeping out of the muddy pathway.[20] He alerted authorities to the missing group after seeing their unclaimed belongings.[21]

Search and contactEdit

 
Rescuers looking for alternative access routes to the cave

British cave diver Vern Unsworth, who lives in Chiang Rai and has intimate knowledge of the cave complex, had scheduled a solo dive on into the cave on Sunday, but instead received a call about the missing boys.[22] Unsworth advised the Thai government to request assistance from the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC).[22][23] On Monday, Thai Navy SEALs divers arrived and began searching the cave.[24] A Thai Navy SEAL said the water was so murky that even with lights they could not see where they were going underwater.[25] After continuous rain, which further flooded the entrance, the search had to be periodically interrupted.[26] On Wednesday, three BCRC divers arrived with specialist equipment including Heyphone LF radios, followed on Thursday by a United States Air Force team of 31st Rescue Squadron Pararescue divers, on Friday by a Australian Federal Police team of Specialist Response Group divers and on Sunday by a Chinese team of divers from the Beijing Peaceland Foundation.[23][27][28][29][30] BCRC divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen advanced through the cave complex placing diving guidelines, supported by Thailand-based Belgian cave diver Ben Reymenants.[31][32][33][34] The Thai, US, Australian and Chinese diving teams supported the BCRC divers by transporting diving bottles, and established an air supply storage area in Chamber 3 of the cave system.[32][35]

Policemen with sniffer dogs searched for shaft openings that could provide alternative entrances to the cave branches below. Drones and robots were also used in the search, but no technology currently exists to scan for people deep underground.[36]

The twelve boys and the coach were discovered on 2 July, at approximately 22:00,[37] by Stanton and Volanthen, whose efforts were overseen from outside by BCRC diver Robert Harper.[38] They were on a narrow rock shelf about 400 metres (1,300 ft) beyond the "Pattaya Beach" chamber,[37][39][40] named after an above-ground beach in Thailand. Volanthen was placing guidelines in the cave to assist others in navigation. He ran out of line, which led him to swim to the surface; there, he found the missing team and its coach, smelling them before hearing or seeing them.[41][42] The ledge where they were found is about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi)[43] from the cave mouth.[44] A video of the encounter, showing the boys and their interactions with the divers, was posted on Facebook by the Thai Navy SEALs.[45] In the video, the dazed boys appear to be unaware of how long they have been trapped deep underground, as they ask the divers what day it is.[15] Former Chiang Rai provincial governor Narongsak Osatanakorn (th), who was in charge of rescue work, said "We found them safe. But the operation isn't over."[46][47]

TeamEdit

The members of the group[18][48] are as follows:

Name (RTGS) Nickname Age Comments
Chanin Wibunrungrueang Titan 11
Phanumat Saengdi Mig 13
Duangphet Phromthep Dom 13 Team captain.[48]
Somphong Chaiwong Pong 13
Mongkhon Bunpiam Mark 13 Rescued in first mission.[49] Stateless.[50]
Natthawut Thakhamsong Tern 14 Rescued in first mission.[51]
Ekkarat Wongsukchan Bew 14
Adun Sam-on 14 Only English language speaker; communicated with initial rescue party.[48] Stateless.[50][52]
Prachak Sutham Note 15 Rescued in first mission.[49]
Phiphat Phothi Nick 15 Rescued in first mission.[51]
Phonchai Khamluang Tee 16 Stateless.[50][52]
Phiraphat Somphiangchai Night 17 Boy whose birthday celebration prompted entry into cave.[19]
Ekkaphon Chanthawong Ake 25 Assistant coach and former monk.[48] Stateless.[50][52] Ninth to be rescued.[53]

The assistant coach and three of the boys have no nationality, according to the founder of the Wild Boars team, Nopparat Khanthavong. He explained that they are from tribes in an area that extends across Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and China, where borders have changed and people do not have passports. He said it has been difficult for the boys to travel to games outside Chiang Rai province. "To get nationality is the biggest hope for the boys", he said.[54]

External video
  The first video released by Thai Navy SEALs showing the children and their coach after they were found by British volunteer divers
External images
  Map, from above, of the Tham Luang cave system, provided by BBC News
  Map, side view, of the Tham Luang cave system, provided by Deutsche Welle

Aid insideEdit

On 3 July, three Thai Navy SEALs and Thai Army doctor Lt. Col. Pak Loharachun of the 3rd Medical Battalion, who had completed the Navy SEALs course, joined the group inside the cave.[55][56] Thai officials told reporters that rescuers were providing health checks and treatment, and keeping the boys entertained, adding that none of those trapped was in a serious condition. "They have been fed with easy-to-digest, high-energy food with vitamins and minerals, under the supervision of a doctor", Rear Admiral Apagorn Youkonggaew, head of the Thai Navy's Special Forces, told reporters. A video made by the rescuers, and shared a few hours later by the Thai Navy SEALs, showed all twelve boys and their coach introducing themselves and stating their age. Wrapped in emergency blankets and appearing frail, they all said hello to the outside world. "Sawatdi khrap", each boy said with his palms together in wai, the traditional Thai greeting.[57] A second video shows a medic treating them.[58] It was believed that some of the group could not swim,[59] complicating what would already be a difficult rescue.[60]

The Army doctor discovered that they had attempted to dig their way out of the cave. The team members had used rock fragments to dig every day, creating a hole five metres deep.[56]

BCRC diver Jason Mallinson offered the boys and coach an opportunity to send a message to relatives by using his wet notes pad.[61] Many of the notes professed their safety, reassured the recipients that everything was fine, and included words of love, reassurance and encouragement.[62]

Planning and preparationEdit

 
Rescue camp near Tham Luang cave

An estimated 10,000 people contributed to the rescue effort, including more than 100 divers, representatives from about 100 government agencies, 900 police officers, 2,000 soldiers and numerous volunteers. Equipment included ten police helicopters, seven police ambulances, and more than 700 air canisters, of which more than 500 were in the cave at any time while another 200 were in the queue to be refilled. More than a billion litres of water (the equivalent of 400 Olympic-size swimming pools) were removed.[63][64]

DevelopmentEdit

As the crisis unfolded, rescuers planned several different methods to save the team and coach. Plans included waiting until the end of the monsoon season, teaching the group basic diving skills, finding other entrances to the cave, or drilling new ones. More than 100 shafts were drilled into the soft limestone, and one shaft was discovered that went down 900 metres.[65] At the outset rescue workers battled rising water levels.[66][67][68] Normally, the cave system is flooded in the rainy season, which lasts until September or October.[69]

Surveys showed flooded passages in a portion of the cave that reaches deep into the mountain. The point where the boys became stranded is about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi)[43] from the entrance and 800–1,000 metres (2,600–3,300 ft) below the top of the mountain.[70] The route to them had several flooded sections, some with strong currents and zero visibility,[71] and some parts which are extremely narrow, the narrowest measuring only 38 by 72 centimetres (15 in × 28 in).[72][73][74] The journey into the cave took six hours (against the current) and coming out took five hours (with the current),[75] even for experienced divers.[68] Panicking during the journey could prove fatal.[76] Teams searched for alternative entrances which could allow for an easier escape route.[77] Drilling was used to help drain water and was also considered as a means to open a viable escape path, though no suitable location was found.[74][70]

 
Pumps used to drain water from the cave and downstream lakes

Systems were installed for pumping water out of the cave and for diverting flows that were entering it. In combination with a spell of unusually dry weather for the time of year, those efforts reduced water levels by 1.5 centimetres (0.6 in) per hour on 5 July, enabling rescue teams to walk 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) into the cave. Heavy rains were expected on 8 July, which might have halted or reversed this process and even threatened to flood the position where the team became trapped.[69][70][78] On 4 July, it was reported the pumps were removing an estimated 1,600,000 l/h (420,000 US gal/h) in total.[79]

On 6 July, the oxygen level in the cave was found to have dropped, raising fears that the trapped boys might develop hypoxia if they remained there for a prolonged time period.[80][81] That same day, an air supply line was installed into the chamber.[82] However, by 8 July, the oxygen levels dropped to 15%; the level needed to maintain normal function of a human is between 19.5% and 23.5%.[83]

DiversEdit

The threat of more heavy rain and the difficulty or impossibility of finding or drilling an escape passage forced rescuers to make the decision to bring out the team and coach with experienced divers.[84] Ninety divers worked in the cave system, forty from Thailand and fifty from other countries.[85] Rescuers at first considered teaching the boys basic diving skills to enable them to make the journey.[74][81] Organisers built a mock-up of a tight passage with chairs, and divers practiced with local boys in a school swimming pool. Thai SEALs and US Air Force experts then revised the plan to use teams of divers to bring out the weakened boys in cocoon-like stretchers.[86]

 
Main cave entrance in heavy rain

Diversion damEdit

A stone diversion dam was built upstream. In combination with pumping, this helped to lower the water level, but required flooding nearby farm fields.[87] For a time, well-meaning volunteers were inadvertently pumping water back into the groundwater supply.[88]

Logistics campEdit

The rescue camp was located in front of the cave entrance and included hundreds of volunteers and journalists in addition to the rescue workers. The site was divided into several zones: restricted areas for the Thai Navy SEALs, other military personnel, and civilian rescuers, an area for the relatives to give them privacy, and areas for the press and for the general public.[89]

Death of rescue diverEdit

 
Saman Kunan

At 8.37pm on 5 July, 37-year-old[90] former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan (Thai: สมาน กุนัน) left Chamber 3 diving to the T Junction close to Pattaya Beach to deliver three oxygen tanks.[10][91] On the return dive, Kunan lost consciousness while under water with his dive buddy attempting CPR but he could not be resuscitated.[10][92] Kunan was brought to Chamber 3 where CPR was attempted again but he could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead about 1 am on 6 July due to asphyxiation.[10] Kunan, from Navy SEALs class 30, left the Navy SEALs in 2006 at the rank of Petty Officer 1st class and was working in a security role at the Suvarnabhumi Airport when he volunteered to assist the Navy SEALSs in the cave.[92][10] A funeral sponsored and attended by the royal family was held in his honour, he was granted a posthumous promotion to Lieutenant Commander by King Vajiralongkorn, and was awarded the Knight Grand Cross (first class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant.[93]

RescueEdit

On the morning of 8 July, officials instructed the media and all non-essential personnel around the cave entrance to clear the area as a rescue operation was imminent due to the threat of monsoon rains later in the week, which were expected to flood the cave until October.

For the first part of the extraction, eighteen rescue divers consisting of five Thai Navy SEALs and thirteen international cave divers were sent into the caves to retrieve the boys using a "buddy system", where two divers would accompany each boy, one ahead of him carrying the boy's air tank and one behind him.[94][95] There were conflicting reports that the boys were rescued with the weakest first or strongest first. In fact, the order was which boy volunteered first.[96] The international cave diving team was led by four BCRC divers John Volanthen, Richard Stanton, Jason Mallinson, Chris Jewell and two Australians doctor Richard Harris, a physician specializing in anesthesia, and Craig Challen.[34][61][97] Their portion of the journey would stretch over 1 kilometre going through submerged routes while being supported by 90 Thai and foreign divers at various points performing medical check-ups, resupplying air-tanks for the main divers and other emergency roles.[98]

The boys were heavily sedated to prevent them from panicking on the journey, with the Thai government providing doctor Harris and two medical assistants with diplomatic immunity if something went wrong.[99][100][101] Contrary to early reports the boys did not swim during their exit.[102] Each boy was wrapped in a specialised flexible stretcher, which was shepherded by rescuers variously carrying, suspending, submerging, floating and sliding it through the flooded and dry parts of the passage.[64] The boys were each equipped with a full face mask, and were underwater for up to 40 minutes at a time in "bone chilling temperatures".[103][64]

After being delivered by the divers into the staging base in Chamber 3, the boys were then passed along a 'daisy chain' by hundreds of rescuers stationed along the treacherous path out of the cave.[104] The boys, wrapped in 'sked' hammocks, would alternately be stretchered, slid and zip-lined over a complex network of pulleys installed by rock-climbers.[105] Many areas from Chamber 3 to the entrance of the cave were still partially submerged and rescuers described having to stretcher the boys over slippery, muddy water for hours.[106] The journey from Chamber 3 to the cave entrance took about four to five hours initially, but was reduced to less than an hour after a week of draining and clearing the mud path using shovels.[107]

The authorities warned that extracting everyone would take several days, because crews had to replace air tanks, gear, and other supplies, requiring ten to twenty hours between each run.[108][109][110]

Shortly after 19:00, local officials said that two boys had been rescued and taken to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital.[111][112][113] Shortly after, two more boys exited the cave and were assessed by medical officials nearby.[111] Low water levels had reduced the time required for the rescues.[114] The lower water was due to improved weather and the construction of a weir outside the cave to help control the water.[115]

On 10 July, all twelve boys and their coach were reported to have been rescued.[3][4][5][116] Four divers and other rescuers were still inside the cave when the pumps were no longer able to keep the water level down because one of the industrial-size hoses had burst.[117] "All of a sudden a water pipe burst and the main pump stopped working", a diver stated. "We really had to run from the third chamber to the entrance because the water level was rising very quickly – like 50cm every 10 minutes."[118] This forced up to 100 rescuers still located more than 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) inside the cave to evacuate in a hurry, abandoning the rescue equipment inside the cave. The remaining rescuers managed to rush to the exit in under an hour.[119]

A number of news outlets reported on the role coach Ekapol had played during the rescue efforts. The coach had previously been a Buddhist monk, and had guided meditation for the children during the ordeal. He had also passed on a message in which he apologised for bringing the children into danger.[120][121]

RecoveryEdit

Thai authorities said the rescued boys were able to eat rice porridge, but more complex foods would be withheld for ten days.[122] The Thai Health Ministry said the boys lost an average of 2 kilograms (4.4 lb) each, but were in "good condition".[123] The boys were quarantined while health workers determined whether they had caught any infectious diseases and were expected to remain hospitalised for at least one week.[124] Due to the prolonged stay in the damp cave environment, officials were worried about potential infections such as histoplasmosis or leptospirosis.[125] Officials said the parents of the team visited through a window, but if laboratory results prove negative, the parents may visit in person while wearing a medical gown, face mask and hair cap.[126]

The boys wore sunglasses as a precaution while their eyes adjusted to daylight. Detailed tests of their eyes, nutrition, mental health and blood were carried out. A Health Ministry physician said all the boys showed an increase in white blood cells, so preventive antibiotic doses were given to the entire team.[126]

ResponsesEdit

LocalEdit

Residents of Chiang Rai province volunteered to cook, clean for, and otherwise support the missing team's families and the rescue teams at the encampment by the cave mouth.[11] Social media were used to draw attention to the rescue attempts.[11] Classmates and teachers of the team spent time chanting and praying for the missing boys.[127] Classmates of one of the boys made 1,000 paper cranes for him, while praying for his safe return.[128] Local schools donated money to help the parents with living costs, as many of them stopped working in order to follow the rescue attempts.[89]

On 29 June, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited the search site and told the families of the boys not to give up hope.[129] Following the death of Saman Kunan, King Rama X announced that he would sponsor Kunan's funeral.[130]

After the rescue was completed those who participated; monks, the boys' families, the rescue commander, military officials, and the thousands of volunteers gathered at the cave entrance. The group gave thanks for the lives saved and asked forgiveness for the intrusion of pumps, ropes and people during the rescue, from the cave's goddess "Jao Mae Tham".[131]

Opinions about assistant coachEdit

Some observers, primarily on Western social media, initially criticised the boys and, in particular, assistant coach Ekapol Chantawong, for "carelessness" by venturing into the cave despite the warning sign at the entrance stating that it is dangerous to enter between July and November.[132] The boys had entered the cave on 23 June, one week before the advised period. Local communities, as well as the boys' parents, emphasised that they did not blame the boys or their coach, as the rain had arrived a month earlier than usual.[133] Vern Unsworth, a British caver mapping the cave, stated, "Nobody’s to blame, not the coach, not the boys. They were just very unlucky ... It wasn’t just the rain that day, the mountain is like a sponge and waters from earlier rain were raising the levels". Unsworth said that he himself had been planning to make a solo venture into the complex on 24 June, when he instead received the call saying the boys were missing there.[134]

While the police chief told the newspaper Khao Sod that he "hadn't ruled out" pressing negligence charges against the coach for putting the team in danger, no calls were made to take legal action against him. A number of lawyers stated that the coach would probably not face criminal charges, since Thai law also takes into consideration whether a person has malicious intent. In mainstream media, Ekapol has widely been held 'a hero' and was a "calm voice [that] helped boys to beat despair in the darkness."[135][136][137] The coach was reported to have treated the boys with care, giving them his food, helping them remain calm, and instructing them to drink water dripping from the cave walls, which is relatively clean, instead of the murky floodwaters that trapped them.

When asked if Ekapol should be held legally responsible for negligence, Banphot Booneiam, the father of 12-year-old Mongkol, rejected the suggestion: “We would never do that... the boys love their coach, [Mongkol] wouldn’t let us do that, and we as parents don’t want it either. Coach Ekk has been good to my boy, and now I hear how he gave them hope, and kept them calm for so many days without food. I have great admiration for him.”[138] Tanawut Vibulrungruang, father of 11-year old Chanin, echoed the sentiment, stating that "he's touched by the actions of the team's coach. Without him...he doesn't know how the kids could have survived."[139] The team's head coach, Naparat Guntawong, said he would not have approved of the hike, but was confident in Ekapol's ability to take care of the boys. Prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that the emphasis should be on the rescue and the recovery of the team, and he asked the public to avoid a rush to judgment.[140][141][142]

InternationalEdit

Over the course of two weeks, hundreds of volunteers, military personnel specialists and corporate interests arrived, from around the world, to assist or offer assistance in the rescue efforts.

  • Australia: Six Australian Federal Police Specialist Response Group divers, one Navy Clearance diver, one Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) member and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Crisis Response Team officers. Up to 20 Australians were involved at the cave site.[143][144] Doctor Richard Harris an anaesthetist was part of the medical team that determined the boys' fitness to make the 4-kilometre (2.5 mi) journey. Harris and his diving partner retired veterinarian Craig Challen, both cave diving specialists, played key roles in the rescue. The Thai government provided Dr Harris with diplomatic immunity to protect him if anything went awry due to administering the sedation.[61][99]
  • Belgium: Ben Reymenants, the owner of a diving school in Phuket, contributed in cave diving capacity.[145]
  • Canada: Erik Brown, a dive instructor from Vancouver, participated on the cave diving team.[146]
  • China: A six-man team of cave rescue experts arrived in Thailand on 29 June. The team brought rescue equipment including an underwater robot, diving equipment and a three-dimensional imager. Additional teams from The Peaceland Foundation and China Greenboat also came to aid in the effort.[145]
  • Czech Republic: Government of the Czech Republic offered to provide a Czech manufacturer's high performance pumps; the state has four such pumps, each with an output of 400 litres per second (1,440,000 l/h (380,000 US gal/h)).[147] Upon inspection at the site, however, it was determined heavy-duty pumps could not be used due to unsuitable terrain.[148]
  • Denmark: Two Danish divers, Ivan Karadzic who runs a diving center with Finnish Mikko Paasi, and Claus Rasmussen, a diving instructor, participated in the cave diving team.[146]
  • Finland: Diver Mikko Paasi came to assist with rescue efforts.[149]
  • Israel: Diver Rafael Aroush joined the diving team while emergency mobile communication devices were donated by Maxtech NetWorks.[151]
  • United Kingdom: The British Cave Rescue Council sent eight experienced cave rescue divers, familiar with caves in Thailand, led the diving team; three cave rescue personnel; and special equipment.[97][159][160][161] Vernon Unsworth, a British man living in the area, was the first cave diver on the site.[162] John Volanthen and Rick Stanton discovered the boys and led the cave diving team.[163][164][165][166] Chris Jewell and Jason Mallison brought 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) of diving equipment.[167][162] Other divers included Connor Roe, Josh Bratchley, Jim Warny, Mike Clayton, Gary Mitchell and Tim Acton.[168][169] The cave rescue personnel, including Robert Harper, provided surface control for the divers.[170][38]
  • United States: On 28 June, the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) deployed 36 personnel from Okinawa, including airmen from 353rd Special Operations Group and the 31st Rescue Squadron. According to Military.com, they joined seven other personnel, including a member of Joint US Military Advisory Group Thailand. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said that US personnel had "staged equipment and prepared the first three chambers of the cave for safe passage. The US contingent assisted in transporting the evacuees through the final chambers of the system, and provided medical personnel and other technical assistance to the rescue efforts."[171]

Volunteers, teams and technical specialists from countries including Germany,[172] Myanmar,[37] the Philippines,[173] Singapore,[174] Spain,[175] Sweden,[176] and Ukraine,[177] also participated in the operation. France offered to send a team of specialists and equipment, but Thai authorities believed that adequate resources were already on site.[178]

The ordeal captured the media's attention from around the world. Over a period of three weeks, articles relating to the incident dominated the top stories section at many major news publications.[179]

Elon MuskEdit

Elon Musk ordered his companies' engineers to design a "kid-sized" submarine to help the rescue effort and publicised the process via Twitter.[180][181] Additionally, California-based inflatable boat manufacturer Wing Inflatables answered Musk's call for help by building inflatable escape pods. The pods were designed, fabricated, and tested in one day, then flown to Thailand to be used in case the mini-submarine could not fit in the cave system.[182][183] Musk's company, SpaceX, built a mini-submarine out of a Falcon 9 liquid oxygen transfer tube.[184] He personally delivered it to Thailand, but having already rescued eight of the twelve children, Thai authorities declined to use the submarine as it was impractical.[185][186]

The British rescue caver Vern Unsworth, who has been exploring the cave over a period of six years and had originally pinpointed the approximate location where the football team had taken refuge, said that Musk's idea "had absolutely no chance of working" and was "just a PR stunt". He said, "The submarine, I believe, was about five foot six long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles. It wouldn’t have made the first 50 metres into the cave from the dive start point."[187][188] Richard Stanton, leader of the international diving team, had earlier urged Musk to continue construction of the mini-submarine as a back-up, in case the flooding worsened.[189]

Football worldEdit

FIFA, via a letter from its president Gianni Infantino to the president of the Football Association of Thailand, invited the children and coach to the World Cup final if circumstances allowed.[190] The entire team was expected to remain hospitalised for at least a week, and watch the final on television instead.[191]

Manchester United F.C. issued an invitation to the team and their rescuers to attend a match at Old Trafford next season. FC Barcelona invited the team to play in their international academy tournament in 2019, and to watch a first-team game at their home stadium Nou Camp.[192] England and Manchester City F.C. defender Kyle Walker said he wanted to send them shirts, after spotting that one of the rescued boys was wearing a "Three Lions" jersey.[193]

TimelineEdit

 
International cave divers prepare their diving gear on 2 July

23 June: The team entered the Tham Luang cave shortly after practice and prior to heavy rain. Later, the mother of one of the boys reported to local police that her son was missing after he failed to arrive home. Local police investigated and found shoes and bicycles near the entrance of the cave.[194]

24 June: Handprints and footprints of the boys were found by officials. A vigil is held outside the cave by relatives.[194]

25 June: Thai Navy SEAL divers enter the cave to search for the team.[194]

26 June: Having arrived at a T-junction, divers were pushed back due to floodwaters. The floodwaters blocked an elevated air pocket near Pattaya Beach, where divers believe the team may have been stranded.[194]

27 June: British and a US military team of divers and experts were sent to Thailand to help with the search. Divers re-entered but quickly retreated due to another flooding.[194][195]

28 June: Heavy rains caused the rescue operation to stop temporarily. In order to drain the water, pumps were delivered. Drones were dispatched to assist more than 600 people in search of new vents in the cave roof.[194][195]

29 June: Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited the site.[194]

30 June: The search resumed after divers took advantage of a brief pause in the rainfall. They advanced further, but still were far from where they believed the boys might be stranded.[194]

1 July: As divers went deeper into the cave, they used Chamber 3 as an operating base to store diving cylinders and other supplies which were replenished by support divers transiting back and forth to the entrance.[194]

2 July: The team were found alive in the evening by the British diving team, 400 m (1,300 ft) further than Pattaya Beach.[194] around 20:20.[37]

3 July: Seven Thai Navy divers, including a doctor and a medic, went to deliver food, medicine and supplies to the boys, including high calorie gels and paracetamol.[194] Four of them, including Pak Loharnshoon, a diving medic, volunteered to stay with the boys inside the cave for a week until all 12 were extracted.[196] They would be the last team to exit the cave.[197]

4 July: The team were taught how to use a full face diving mask and breathing apparatus as rescue teams worked on pumping water from the cave.[194]

5 July: The rescue was forced to move quicker due to expected rain. Another group searched the mountains for any new cracks or openings.[194]

6 July: Saman Kunan, a former Thai navy diver and volunteer of the rescue mission, died between 01:00 to 02:00 while placing diving cylinders underwater along the route to the stranded boys.[198] Authorities urged that the rescue happen more quickly, due to low oxygen levels.[194]

7 July: The rescue chief claimed that it was not suitable for the team to dive yet. More than 100 vents were being drilled in an attempt to reach the team. A letter appeared from the coach of the team, apologising to the boys' parents.[18][194]

8 July: Thirteen international divers, led by four British and two Australian divers,[97] and five Thai military SEALs divers went into the cave to begin bringing the boys to safety.[94][95] The first boy was reported to have come out at around 17:40, and the fourth one was reported to have come out at around 19:50,[199] though not all sources agree. The four boys were taken to a nearby hospital. It was announced that divers would not resume the rescue for at least another 10 hours, as they needed to replenish supplies.[194]

9 July: Four more boys were confirmed to be out of the cave and then taken to the hospital. It was also announced that the boys would be kept in quarantine.[200]

10 July: The remaining four boys and their coach were rescued.[201][3][4][5] It was later confirmed that all of the rescue divers had also successfully exited the cave.[201][202]

LegacyEdit

The head of the rescue mission and former governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osatanakorn (th), said that the cave system would be turned into a living museum to highlight how the operation unfolded. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha acknowledged the statement but highlighted the concerns for tourist safety, stating that precautions would have to be added and correctly implemented both inside and outside to safeguard tourists.[203][204][205]

Following the incident, Thailand's Navy SEALs will include cave-diving in their training regimen to be better prepared for similar emergencies.[206]

As three of the boys and their coach are stateless persons, the event has also drawn media attention to the issue of statelessness. Officials confirmed that the three boys and their coach will be granted full Thai citizenship.[207] The Thai government has vowed to end statelessness by 2024.[208]

Possible filmEdit

On 10 July, a managing partner of US film production company Pure Flix announced that the firm was planning to create a feature film based on the rescue, with potential for worldwide release.[209] Ivanhoe Pictures of SK Global Entertainment also expressed interest in a separate project, with Jon Chu slated as the director.[210]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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