Day 8: Heavy equipment, relief teams rushed to Thai cave rescue site (video)

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As day eight of a desperate search and rescue operation at a northern Thailand cave got underway for a missing teen football team additional personal and heavy equipment are being despatched from the furthest parts of the kingdom as no effort is spared in the search for the #MaeSai13.

Overnight a convoy of volunteer rescue personnel, two heavy duty Phayanark water pumps, and emergency-support vehicles left Nakhon Pathom, Thailand west of Bangkok for the cave site in Mae Sai ,some 900 kilometres (about 560 miles) away in far northern Thailand.

Under a bevy of flashing emergency lights and with sirens wailing, the convoy travelled throughout the night to arrive at the Thai cave site this morning, highway and expressway entrance ramps and side roads blocked to facilitate their passage.

Desperate search for alternate entrances

Meanwhile improved weather conditions yesterday enabled the deployment of specialist survey drones over the mountain range housing the cave network, with search teams continuing to scour the dense scrub and bushland below by foot for ‘chimneys’ or ‘ceiling entrances’, for alternate access routes.

Two Thai Navy Seals battle their way against the current to move diving air tanks deeper into Tham Luang cave
Two Thai Navy Seals battle their way against the current to move diving air tanks deeper into Tham Luang cave Thai Navy Seals

A number of chimneys and entrances leading into the Thai cave have already been discovered, however physical and robotic examination have seen them all peter out into dead ends.

At the same time dozens of water-tight plastic tubs containing food, water, a mobile phone, a flash-light, a map of the cave system, and a note asking for any finder to make contact immediately have been dropped up river of the cave, and down chimneys thought to extend to its interior.

Joining cave rescue experts from Japan, the UK, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and the US Navy (See: Thailand Prays as Day 6 of Search For Football Teens in Flooded Cave Ends (HD video)) today is a six-man team from the Beijing Peaceland Foundation.

Chinese experts, specialised equipment arrives

The group of specialist cave divers arrived in Thailand yesterday (June 29), reportedly bringing with them ‘underwater drones, diving equipment, 3D imaging sensors, and other equipment’

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha visits the Thai cave rescue site on June 29. Al Jazeera English

Meanwhile a visit to the Thai cave yesterday by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha descended into chaotic scenes, the ‘low key’ visit seeing the PM and a phalanx of hangers-on and officials eager to be associated with the visit bringing operations outside of the cave to a halt as they traipsed through the already boggy site.

Today (June 30) merit making and prayer ceremonies are being held in churches, mosques, and Buddhist temples across the country as the race against time continues.

Yesterday schools nationwide held prayer and meditation ceremonies adding to a mood of sombreness and concern that has not swept the nation since before the death of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Rescue teams battling exhaustion

The rugged conditions, lack of sleep, constant rain, wet clothing, and slippery mud is also beginning to take its toll on rescue workers.

One volunteer working inside the cave collapsed yesterday from exhaustion, and not electrocution as widely reported, while a call has gone out for medication to combat athlete’s foot from the constantly wet conditions underfoot.

Despite the grim conditions those involved in the Thai cave search in Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park remain determined that this remains a search and rescue mission, hopeful that the Moo Pa (Wild Boar) Academy Mae Sai football team have been able to stay above the water that has filled the cave for most of the past week.


Update: This story was updated at 20:41 on June 30, 2018:

An earlier version of the story stated the the pumps had left from Samut Prakan when in fact they departed from Nakhon Pathom. The previous distance stated to Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park was 1,500 kilometres. The distance is about 900 kilometres. The story has been updated to reflect this.



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John Le Fevre

Thailand editor at AEC News Today

John is an Australian national with more than 40 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer, and copy editor.

He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.

He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.

In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.

Prior to AEC News Today he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.

In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.

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