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Trapped and Rescued: The Risky Mission That Gripped The World

As the world rejoices over the successful rescue mission of the Thai football team called the Wild Boars, here’s a quick summary of the whole incident.

On 23rd June 2018, 12 football players and their 25-year-old coach went missing while on a short trek in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand. They were discovered nine days later, on 2nd July 2018, when volunteer British cave-diving experts Richard Stanton and John Volanthen managed to locate them deep in the cave. They were trapped there after the weather quickly turned bad as monsoon rains came flooding in, leaving them no choice but to venture further into the cave to save themselves from the floods.

Source: Channel News Asia

The heavy rainfall and partially flooded cave made it impossible for them to exit in any way. They reportedly survived the nine days by drinking water that dripped from the cave walls, and rationing whatever provisions they had. It was also widely reported that the coach gave up his share of the food and water for the boys, rendering him the weakest among the lot when they were found. Rescue and provision efforts began immediately.

The mission was then to figure out the best way to get them out safely. Professional divers and members of the Thai Navy SEAL had to dive through murky waters and narrow tunnels to get to the chamber where the group was trapped. Lack of food and energy made it impossible to bring The Boars out immediately, so food and air supply was brought in in turns by the divers.

The first option was for divers to continually supply provisions while they wait out Thailand’s rainy season, but this would mean the team would be stuck in the cave until October. The second, more risky option was to take them out one-by-one, maneuvering through the difficult path out of the cave. They went with the latter. Unfortunately, Sgt. Major Saman Gunan, a retired Thai Navy SEAL who volunteered to enter the cave to lay oxygen tanks along the exit route, passed away due to lack of oxygen on his journey.

The Royal Thai Navy released this image of a former member who died while working as a volunteer rescuer in the operation to save the boys soccer team trapped inside a cave in Chiang Rai province, Thailand.  Source: ABC News

The rescue mission also received help and support from many Thai groups, as well as cave rescue experts from around the world, including Chinese lifesaving responders, British cave experts, an official Australian group, and a US military team. The latest to offer help offered was Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla, and founder of SpaceX and The Boring Company, however, it was later determined that his offer of using a mini-submarine was not feasible.

The first rescue attempt began at 10am on Sunday, 8th July. Two divers were assigned to bring back one person in turns, so as to make their way out of the cave safely. To better understand how dangerous and difficult the mission was, even expert divers needed six hours to reach the group from a Navy command center set up about a mile deep inside the cave. Another five hours was needed to return to the command centre in the swift currents through pitch-black tunnels filled with stalactites and sharp turns.

Infographic of the Thai cave rescue route. Image credit: Channel News Asia

An infographic released by the Thai government on Sunday showed how the oxygen tanks had to be removed and carefully rolled through narrow parts of the tunnels. Thankfully, the first four boys were successfully transported out of the cave and rushed to the Chiang Rai Region General Hospital immediately the same day.

The second rescue attempt commenced 20 hours later, where 18 divers were involved in rescuing another four boys, with the assistance of over 100 other people in the cave. They helped with the guide ropes and in filling the tanks to ensure a successful mission. Divers began the mission at 11am on Monday, 9th July, and by 8pm, all four boys had made it to the hospital. Thankfully, the second day’s rescue went much more smoothly than the first.

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The third and final rescue took place, on 10th July. The remaining four boys and coach were brought out safely and transported to the hospital for immediate treatment and monitoring, as they needed to be quarantined to make sure that they had not contracted any diseases. All 13 of them are reportedly doing well, with the latest news developments showing the boys in face masks in hospital, looking happy despite being monitored closely and being isolated from family. Their family members are allowed to talk to them through a glass partition and hospital phones to reduce risk of infection on both sides. Doctors still aren’t sure if they picked up any diseases from the cave.

Mission impossible became mission possible, and the world celebrates the football team’s safety and the outstanding effort provided by all parties involved.

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