Journey for trapped Thai schoolboys is a perilous, dark labyrinth

Ivan Schwartz
July 9, 2018

It was 10am (4am United Kingdom time) when officials made a decision to begin what one expert said was "beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most complex rescue ever attempted in the caving world".

The operation to rescue 12 boys and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand kicked off early on Sunday, a couple hours after Musk had predicted his project would be complete and nearly a day earlier than he said he would be able to bring the sub to Thailand. He would ferry the boys to and from home when their parents could not and took responsibility for them as if they were his own family.

Rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn on Sunday said four of the team - affectionately dubbed by Thai social media Wild Boars 1, 2, 3, 4 - were "safe" and said the extraction effort would likely resume early Monday.

The rescue of the initial batch of boys was a stunning victory in an operation Narongsak had earlier dubbed "Mission Impossible", and led to cautious optimism that the others would also be saved.

Meanwhile rescuers fed a kilometres-long air pipe into the cave to restore oxygen levels in the chamber where the team was sheltering with medics and divers. Eight of the boys, and their adult coach, remained inside after the divers exhausted their supplies of air. He said that four boys were rescued in Sunday's effort.

"The operation went much better than expected", said Chiang Rai acting governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is overseeing the mission. An update Saturday from the Thai navy said three navy SEALs were with the boys and their coach, one a doctor. Narongsak said the four were then taken to a hospital.

"We heard four boys are out but we do not know who they are".

Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand's elite navy SEAL unit are trying to bring the boys - some as young as 11 and weak swimmers - through narrow, submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver on Friday.

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Known for his ambition and sometimes insane ideas, Musk promised to develop a submarine to aid in rescuing the boys. Officials initially considered drilling as an approach for rescuing the boys, but that option has mostly been eliminated because getting the necessary drilling equipment up the mountain would be daunting and time-consuming.

The boys set out to explore the vast Tham Luang cave, which is known in the area as off-limits, after soccer practice on June 23. Rising water levels, too, as the result of heavy rains is also an issue.

Rescuers awoken Monday to cloudy skies, after a night in which heavy monsoon rains lashed the mountainous region for several hours.

The first boys from a group trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks have emerged from underground and rushed to hospital.

The search and rescue operation has involved dozens of global experts and rescuers, including a US military team.

Footage shared on Musk's Twitter account shows a group testing the device in a Los Angeles high school swimming pool.

"I promise to take the very best care of the kids", he wrote.

Other reports by GizPress

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