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Lull in rain allows Thailand cave rescue to pick up pace

China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-02 07:49

MAE SAI, Thailand - The frantic effort to locate 12 boys and their soccer coach missing in a cave in Thailand for a week picked up pace as a break in the rain eased flooding in the system of caverns and more experts from around the world joined the anxious rescue mission.

China sent a six-person team of rescue and disaster experts to the cave, the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok said. The group has experience in lifesaving operations in Myanmar and Nepal, the embassy said.

The six-man rescue team, Green Boat Emergency, arrived in Thailand on Saturday and brought rescue equipments including an underwater robot, diving equipment and three-dimension imager to the cave.

"Our skills are search-and-rescue on mountains and in caves. We hope we can help," said Wang Xudong, a member of the group.

However, the search in the northern province of Chiang Rai has been going slowly, largely because flooding has blocked rescuers from going through chambers to get deeper into the cave. Pumping out water hasn't solved the problem, so the attention has focused on finding shafts on the mountainside that might serve as a back door to the blocked-off areas where the missing may be sheltering.

'Better situation'

The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered the sprawling Tham Luang Nang Non cave after a soccer game on June 23, but near-constant rains have thwarted the search for them. Authorities have nevertheless expressed hope that the group has found a dry place within the cave to wait.

Reflecting that hope, a medical evacuation drill was held on Saturday morning to see how long it would take to get rescued people out of the cave into 13 ambulances and to the nearest hospital.

Australian police and military personnel joined other multinational teams, including US military personnel and experts from a British cave exploration club.

Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said the falling water level in the cave has helped the rescue effort considerably.

"Today, the situation is much better and we have high hopes, and will be here all night," he said early on Saturday evening.

Thai navy SEAL divers have been crucial to the search, but have been stymied by muddy water reaching the cave's ceiling, forcing them to suspend operations again and again. With water levels dropping, they resumed dives on Saturday, re-entering a chamber from which they had retreated earlier in the week. But they could not advance farther than 200 meters from their current position, the team reported.

In addition to pumping out the flooded chambers, rescuers were working on finding the source of the water that's been rushing into the cave in order to drain or divert it.

Xinhua - Ap

 Lull in rain allows Thailand cave rescue to pick up pace

Soldiers and rescue workers work in Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, on Sunday.Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

(China Daily 07/02/2018 page11)

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