How does something go from an innocent day out with your mates to a harrowing test of endurance and survival? And when it does happen, how do you respond and keep your nerve enough to find a way through?
These are the questions racing through the minds of a gang of 12 boys, their football coach and hundreds of desperate rescue workers pulling their hair out to save the team after they became stranded in a flooded cave in Thailand.
To get you up to speed on this story, the boys, aged 11 to 16, went missing for nine days after entering the cave when it was dry on a team outing. But they were found, tired and hungry, on Monday by two British rescue divers.
The were found on a rock shelf about 2.5 miles from the mouth of the cave, according to the BBC, and were reportedly cut off when sudden heavy rains blocked their way out.
“We are racing against time before we found them,” Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said at a press conference on Thursday. “Now we are racing against water.”
Food and metal blankets have been taken to the boys, who miraculously appear to be in good spirits.
But things took an unfortunate turn yesterday when a former navy diver who was delivering air tanks to the boys died on his way out of the cave complex.
Petty Officer Saman Gunan lost consciousness on his way out of the Tham Luang cave last night.
“His job was to deliver oxygen. He did not have enough on his way back,” the Chiang Rai deputy governor said. Saman was brought out by his dive partner but couldn’t be revived.
The death has underscored exactly how dangerous the situation is for the boys stuck down there – and how risky any rescue attempts will be. If a professional diver can’t make it out alive, then things aren’t looking too great for the boys.
Officials are also concerned about the falling levels of oxygen in the cave system, which is now at 15% because there are so many rescue workers down there trying to get them out – the usual level is about 21%. Authorities are currently trying to get a 3 mile air supply cable into the cave.
Experts have now narrowed down the options to get the boys out safely:
1. Teach the boys to dive
The journey from the entrance of the cave to where the boys are takes around five hours. And, crucially, many of the boys can’t swim – so they’d have to go through intense training. The regional governor has said that some of the boys are already doing some practice dives.
But it’s likely that this option might prove too dangerous, especially if upcoming monsoon rains raise the water level even further.
2. Drain the cave
Another option is to drain the cave system so the boys can walk out wearing life jackets, according to the Guardian.
After extensive pumping, the water level has already been reduced in the first section of the cave by around 40%.
Some have advocated drilling down to the boys and rescuing them that way but the regional governor has already said this is likely too dangerous because the boys are around 1km below the surface and in a confined space.
Read another unbelievable story of survival: This is what it’s like to be eaten by a hippo
4. Wait it out… for four months
Everyone’s hoping that the rain will stop for long enough that the boys might be able to simply walk out of the cave in the coming days. But if water levels continue to rise, they could be stranded in the cave for up to four months.
The boys are already being stocked up with food and medical supplies – including high-calorie gels and paracetamol.
“[We will] prepare to send additional food to be sustained for at least four months and train all 13 to dive while continuing to drain the water,” Navy Captain Anand Surawan said, according to a statement from Thailand’s Armed Forces.
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