Thai Navy SEALs were quickly trying to learn the basics of cave-diving—their training is in open water and they had no cave experience, a much more complicated and dangerous endeavor.
When it came time to decide who to take out first, the boys decided on their own, presenting Thai SEALs with a list of their names in order, Thai authorities said.
.. Then, on Tuesday, shortly after the group inside the deepest cavern had been pulled to safety, a piece of equipment that drained water to levels that made the escape manageable broke. Without the pump, torrential rains that night sent water levels soaring through the cave.
“It’s lucky we completed our mission yesterday, because the cave is covered by water again today,” Royal Thai Navy SEAL commander Rear Admiral Arpakorn Yookongkaew said on Wednesday.
.. The rescuers were aided by a combination of luck and an outpouring of support from a motley group including military experts, international cave-divers, medical personnel and a Thai rock singer and her fan club.
.. The effort enlisted more than
- 900 police officers,
- 10 police helicopters,
- seven police ambulances, more than
- 700 air canisters and
- thousands of rescue workers.
Volunteer cooks dished out more than 5,000 meals a day for the people on the ground. When divers needed wetsuits, air tanks and regulators, volunteers collected hundreds more than needed.
.. Another group of Thailand-based cave divers was pulled together by Narinthorn Na Bangchang, a Bangkok-based actress and singer
.. Ms. Narinthorn flew to Mae Sai the night of June 25 with Ruengrit Changkwanyuen, an IT specialist and diving enthusiast who became a go-to person for the SEALs for information on cave-diving gear and techniques
.. In an attempt to lower water levels, engineers set up heavy-duty pumps to drain water. In the 2½ weeks the boys were trapped, they pumped a billion liters of water out into the surrounding farmland and river system, enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool 400 times over.
.. The pumping effort allowed rescuers to lower the water level in key areas, providing dry ground for staging areas and places where divers could refresh their supply of air. Volunteers laid cables, lighting and guide ropes.
.. Volunteer divers worked alongside the Thai SEALs to try to locate the boys’ cave. They formed teams that pushed forward 200 meters at a time, supplied by other divers and volunteers who formed a “daisy chain” to pass tanks inside and place them at 25 meter intervals so the divers would have a constant supply of air.
.. Royal Thai Navy personnel carry a portrait of Saman Gunan, a former Navy SEAL who died during the rescue operation... Pumping out water had been successful—three kilometers beyond the entrance of the cave had been all but dried out completely—but forecasters warned of heavy rains in the coming days... Conditions in the cave piled on further pressure. Oxygen levels were down to 15% in the boys’ chamber, well below the normal 21% in the atmosphere. A level of 12% is considered seriously hazardous to health... Thai SEALs and volunteer dive experts had created a plan that posted two seasoned cave divers, most of them foreigners, at nine stations along the way to the entrance.Each boy was placed on a stretcher, wearing a wetsuit and full face mask, with an air tank at his side. Each pair of divers carried the stretcher along the cave passages, and through submerged tunnels and open chambers, meaning that the boys didn’t swim or climb at all, said a person familiar with the operation.
.. The boys were medicated to keep them from panicking underwater, but weren’t rendered unconscious
Stateless and Poor, Some Boys in Thai Cave Had Already Beaten Long Odds
It was Adul, the stateless descendant of a Wa ethnic tribal branch once known for headhunting, who played a critical role in the rescue, acting as interpreter for the British divers.
.. Proficient in English, Thai, Burmese, Mandarin and Wa, Adul politely communicated to the British divers his squad’s greatest needs: food and clarity on just how long they had stayed alive.
.. the Wild Boars’ 18-day ordeal came to an end. In a three-day rescue mission, Adul and 12 others were safely extracted from the cave by a team of dozens of divers, doctors and support staff.
.. Located not far from where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet in the Golden Triangle
.. The Golden Triangle is a smuggling center, and a sanctuary for members of various ethnic militias that have spent decades pushing for autonomy from a government in Myanmar that routinely represses them.
.. Three of the trapped soccer players, as well as their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, are stateless ethnic minorities, accustomed to slipping across the border to Myanmar one day and returning for a soccer game in Thailand the next.
.. Their presence undercuts a Thai sense of nationhood that is girded by a triumvirate of institutions: the military, the monarchy and the Buddhist monastery.
.. With the English he used to communicate with the British divers on July 2, Adul was crucial in ensuring the safety of the Wild Boars. He is the top student in his class at the Ban Wiang Phan School in Mae Sai. His academic record and sporting prowess have earned him free tuition and daily lunch.
.. “Stateless children have a fighting spirit that makes them want to excel,” he said. “Adul is the best of the best.”
.. At least 440,000 stateless people live in Thailand, many of whom are victims of Myanmar’s long years of ethnic strife, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Human rights groups say the true number could be as high as 3 million — in a nation of nearly 70 million — even though the Thai government has refused to ratify the United Nations convention guaranteeing rights for refugees.
.. A stateless member of the ethnic Shan minority, Mr. Ekkapol has long experience caring for children. After his parents died in Myanmar when he was a young boy, he entered the Buddhist monkhood in Thailand for nearly a decade, a common option for orphans untethered from financial support.