Death of diver shows difficulty of Thai cave rescue, rain forecast

That it took nine days to find the thirteen people trapped deep in a cave in Thailand indicated the serious of their predicament.

It didn’t take long for warnings to be made about how difficult it would be getting them out of the flooded cave system, especially with the looming threat of several months of monsoon rains.

And the risks have been emphasised even more with the death of an expert diver, who ran out of oxygen on his way back out of the cave after dropping off oxygen tanks along the exit route.

BBC: Ex-navy diver dies on oxygen supply mission

Petty Officer Saman Gunan lost consciousness on his way out of the Tham Luang cave complex, where he had been delivering air tanks.

The group was found by British rescue divers after 10 days in the cave, perched on a rock shelf in a small chamber about 4km (2.5 miles) from the cave mouth.

Teams of Thai and international divers have since supplied them with food, oxygen and medical attention, but there are mounting concerns about the oxygen level in the chamber, which officials said had fallen to 15%. The usual level is 21%.

The death of Saman – a highly trained diver – on Thursday underscored the danger of moving from the chamber to mouth of the cave, and raised serious doubts about the safety of bringing the boys out through the cramped, flooded passageways.

The diver died after losing consciousness in one of the passageways, said Passakorn Boonyaluck, deputy governor of the Chiang Rai region, where the cave is situated.

“His job was to deliver oxygen. He did not have enough on his way back,” Mr Passakorn said.

Very sad.

On the surface, a huge military and civilian rescue operation is racing against the clock to bring the boys to safety. Heavy monsoon rains are expected on Sunday, threatening further flooding.

Officials had initially considered leaving the boys in the chamber to wait out the rainy season – which could have seen them trapped there for up to four months.

But Thailand’s Navy Seal commander suggested on Thursday that the divers may now have little choice but to attempt a daring emergency rescue – fraught with danger for the boys, who are aged 11 to 16 and some of whom cannot swim.

The latest news: Thailand cave rescue: no attempt to get boys out tonight, says governor

That was last night Thai time. It is nearly two weeks since they got trapped in the cave.

Official says even if rains start overnight, the football team ‘cannot dive at this time’

“There is no chance the boys will come out today. it is not suitable. they still cannot dive.”

He says the British diver, who came out of the cave at 9pm (local time), reported that the boys were fine.

The governor adds that he speaks to the families every day and asks if they want him to bring out the children right now. He says he wants the minimum risk before attempting the rescue.

If it rains, he says, the authorities “will try” to bring them out.

Efforts today to find appropriate locations to drill a shaft down to the stranded footballers were unsuccessful, meaning that the only viable option out is via the tunnels.

More: Full report: Falling oxygen levels add to risks of delays

Oxygen levels in their chamber may have fallen to about 15%, the deputy army commander Chalongchai Chaiyakham said at a briefing on Friday. Normal oxygen levels in the air are about 21%.

So many people – the boys, and the rescuers – in confined spaces are using up the available oxygen.

Updates from authorities throughout the week have emphasised the dangers of shepherding the boys through the cave to the exit, but the oxygen issues that emerged on Friday highlight the risks of keeping the boys in place during the monsoon.

Major decisions face those leading the rescue attempt. Very difficult decisions.

The cave is in Chiang Rai, which is in the north of Thailand:

Google Maps

Wikipedia:

Thailand is divided into three seasons.The first is the rainy or southwest monsoon season (mid–May to mid–October) which prevails over most of the country. This season is characterized by abundant rain with August and September being the wettest period of the year.

Nonetheless, dry spells commonly occur for 1 to 2 weeks from June to early July.

The boys and there coach became trapped just before a current dry spell.

This from weather.com shows the imminence of rain:

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Zedd

     /  July 7, 2018

    that put a dampener on the ‘good news’ that they were found alive.. methinks they need to move ASAP to get them out; running out of air & the monsoon is coming too ? 😦

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  July 7, 2018

      Hands up those who thought that once they’d been found, the rescue would be – not easy, but a foregone conclusion.(raises own hand)

      I don’t know why they can’t come back out the way they went in, but this is obviously not an option.

      There are going to be some hard questions asked, especially of the fool who organised the trip. I thought that they were much older boys.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  July 7, 2018

        I am humbled and moved by the astonishing selflessness and generosity of spirit shown by the who knows how many people in this situation, like the man who died because he brought them oxygen and had none himself in an emergency.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  July 8, 2018

          The PDT doesn’t agree that these people are selfless and generous to do all this for strangers, but I imagine that most people admire the many who are working day and night for these boys,