Former Navy SEAL: Thailand Cave Rescue Is Like 'Climbing Mount Everest'

Sherman Parsons
July 9, 2018

Chiang Rai provincial acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn made the comment at a news conference Sunday evening after rescuers extracted four of the boys from the cave where they had been trapped for more than two weeks.

Twelve youths aged from 11 to 16 were trapped, while a massive global rescue effort has been mounted including Thai Navy divers and foreign volunteers.

One of the boys to emerge was a 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiem, local media has reported.

"Our job is not completely done".

Mr Osatanakorn said a one-mile passage from the cave entrance to the third chamber, a staging ground for the mission, was "mostly walkable", adding: 'Although there are some slightly hard parts [where] we have to bend or crawl, we can say that we can just walk through it.

On Friday, the death of a former Thai navy SEAL underscored the risks.

"Now and in the next three or four days, the conditions are ideal [for evacuation] in terms of the water, the weather and the boys' health", Narongsak told reporters.

Governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osottanakorn told CNN that apart from the Thai divers, the rescuers were from other countries such as the United States, Europe, Australia and China.

Mr Ekapol Chanthawong, his assistant, was to take the younger boys to a soccer field nestled by the Doi Nang Non mountain range, a formation with numerous waterfalls and caves that straddles the Thai-Myanmar border.

It's understood Adelaide-based cave diver and anaesthetist Richard Harris, 53, assessed the children and their coach and initially suggested taking the stronger children out first before authorities revised their plan.

Thai cave rescue: What happens next?

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Rescuers have been desperately pumping water out of the cave, and Mr Narongsak said on Sunday that water levels inside were at their lowest levels so far.

"We are giving them a physical examination".

At 9pm on Sunday, four boys had been evacuated from the cave.

The mission to free the remaining members of the group has been suspended for at least 10 hours, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said, as teams replenish supplies used up removing the first four boys.

Additionally, the continuance of the rescue operation is dependent on the weather holding out, with rain potentially causing delays.

The next rescue effort is expected to kick off at 10am local time (1pm AEST), with divers returning into the submerged caverns to guide the next four boys out. In total, the mission could last several days, he also said, though the team of global divers on the site are apparently feeling "buoyed" by the success of the operation so far.

For the boys, the most unsafe part of the journey out of the labyrinth cave system remains the first kilometer, in which they are required to pass through a flooded channel no wider than a person. Some sections of the cave require climbing equipment, and one section that has been flooded by stormwater is so narrow that divers must remove their oxygen tanks to get through.

The Tesla CEO has designed an escape pod as he lends a hand to the complex rescue effort.

They expected the process to take two or three days with two divers escorting each boy.

With eight boys and the coach still trapped in the cave, Thair authorities are facing a race against time, amid concerns of further monsoon rain.

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