Thailand Cave Rescue: It's started
News has broken this morning that overnight the decision has been taken to begin diving operations to evacuate the trapped boys and their football coach from the Tham Luang Nang Non Cave in northern Thailand.
Late last night a press conference was held at the entrance of the cave by the Governor of Chiang Rai Province, Narongsak Osottanakorn. He explained that a re-evaluation of the boys’ situation had led the rescue authorities to conclude that they could not stay in the cave throughout the monsoon season.
sitting out the monsoon on a small, crumbling ledge...is no longer considered to be a viable option
A British Cave Rescue Council spokesman stated "sitting out the monsoon on a small, crumbling ledge with reduced oxygen and the risk of it severely flooding during the monsoon rains is no longer considered to be a viable option."
Osottanakor announced a 'back up plan' had been put together to dive everyone out, should the monsoon rains resume before other options could be used to rescue them. To this end the British Cave Rescue Council received a further request for more expert cave divers.
Yesterday three additional British cave diving rescue experts flew out of London Heathrow.
There are now seven experienced British cave diving rescuers, and three British surface control cave rescue specialists on site. In addition there are seven international divers and 5 Thai Navy SEAL divers,
This will be a highly complex, continuous rescue mission
The Thai authorities are running this rescue and the British rescuers are working in concord with Thai Navy SEAL divers and rescuers from other nations.
The site is locked down
Early this morning the immediate area around the entrance to the Tham Luang Nang Non Cave was systematically cleared and screened off, as it will allow the space for rescuers to do their job without hindrance. This is a cave rescue standard operating practice. The quarantined area is now guarded by Thai police. Only those immediately involved with the diving rescue are allowed access, ie divers and medics.
All surplus personnel, including the media, were given a deadline of 09.00 (local time) to evacuate the area. The media is now located in a Pineapple grove away from the cave.
The water levels within the cave system have reduced, however no one knows when torrential Monsoon rain will arrive, and it is thought that storms are imminent.
A precious time window
The boys were all assessed yesterday by Dr Richard Harris, an Australian doctor. He confirmed that the group are mentally and physically well enough to move, and they have had time to recover some strength.
A British Cave Rescue Council spokesman confirmed that the process of pumping out enough water to let the boys wade out, had run out of time. Heavy rain is imminent and will reverse the remarkable progress made over the last few days.. The water levels have not yet started to rise, therefore the decision was made to evacuate the boys now. Their families have been informed.
The divers entered the cave system at 10.00 local time to conduct a highly complex, continuous rescue mission. It is thought that it will take a number of days to dive out all the boys and the football coach.
A British Cave Rescue Council spokesman confirmed that the rescue exercise has been practised prior to today's mission. The current water levels in chambers one, two and three have dropped, so that it is possible to walk through these chambers.
This is the best in terms of timing and plans of the rescue
Each child will be accompanied by two divers.
The doctor and paramedics are on stand by to provide medical attention whenever the rescue team emerge.
The electricity and the water level in the cave will be monitored continuously throughout this rescue mission.
How can you help?
Charitable rescue organisations such as the British Cave Rescue Council are generally not that well funded. If you feel that you wish to make a practical difference, please consider donating something to this charity. The money will be used to support this and future cave rescues, ie purchase equipment.