World News

Thailand Cave Rescue Updates: New Videos of Soccer Team

Posted July 4, 2018 11:43 a.m. EDT

They are the soccer team that has brought a polarized country together: 12 boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach, trapped in the vast and monsoon-flooded Tham Luang Cave network in northern Thailand since June 23.

On the 10th day of the search, a British rescue diver finally found the team, all alive and relatively healthy, in a cavern three miles from the cave’s mouth.

Officials are now deciding how, and when, to get the starvation-weakened team back out through treacherous, tight and flooded passages. None have ever used scuba gear.

In the meantime, food and medicine are being brought to the trapped team, and military volunteers have stayed with them around the clock.

Video clips taken by a Thai Navy SEAL member show the boys and their coach in the cave, looking skinny but seemingly healthy and in good spirits.

Divers reached them Monday night and have been taking them food, medicine and other supplies as officials and diving experts try to figure out how to extract them from the Tham Luang Cave.

In one clip, the boys are sitting, some wrapped in space blankets, as Lt. Col. Dr. Phak Lohanchun, an army doctor who has SEAL training, puts disinfectant on their cuts.

Phak mentions the rigor of that training and, holding the disinfectant, tells the boys: “I had wounds all over my body. I couldn’t take a bath. To heal the wounds, I had to apply this all over.”

The diver taking the video says to a boy who appears to be one of the youngest, “Show me your smile.”

The boy smiles shyly and holds up two fingers.

In another video, the boys speak briefly in turn to the camera, giving their names and saying they are healthy.

“What do the 13 of you want to say to your fans?” the doctor asks. “Everybody in this world has been following your news.”

The videos were originally posted on the Facebook page of Forest Records, a Thai indie label that recorded a song by a band in which Phak performs. Two are also hosted on the Royal Thai Navy Facebook page.

A Thai Navy captain has raised the possibility that, in the worst-case scenario, the 12 boys and their coach could be in Tham Luang Cave until the end of the July-to-November rainy season.

Several experts say that it would be better to extract the group much sooner, and that several factors would work in rescuers’ favor. But they also acknowledge that any rescue would carry unavoidable risks.

Dinko Novosel, the president of the European Cave Rescue Association, said one positive factor is the Thai cave’s warm air temperature. Cold air was a risk, he noted, during the 2014 rescue of Johann Westhauser, who had been trapped nearly 4,000 feet below ground in Germany’s deepest cavern. (Westhauser was saved after more than 11 days in a rescue operation that required 728 people.)

Above all, Novosel said, he was confident that the rescue effort in Tham Luang Cave would succeed because the British divers involved are world-renowned specialists.

“The British are best when there’s water in a cave,” he said in a telephone interview from Croatia.

But Chris Boardman, the national safeguarding officer for the British Caving Association, said a rescue would be “tricky” because divers would need to take diving equipment into the cave, teach the children how to use it and bring them out, one at a time, through flooded passages.

What’s more, Novosel said, a key to escaping from a narrow, flooded cave passage is an ability to conserve air and maintain one’s confidence and composure.

“These are kids, and they will probably be scared,” he said. “When a person is scared, he uses so much air. So this is delicate — very delicate.”