While Thailand celebrated overnight after the 12 kids and their football coach were located alive in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Mae Sai after having been stuck since June 23, harder times may be ahead with reports that it could be months until the 13 may be finally rescued from the cave.
The challenge facing rescuers is how to get the kids and the coach out of the cave, with getting to them to begin with taking a week through conditions described as extremely challenging. The Mae Sai 13 themselves are located between 4 to 7 kilometers inside the cave (reports vary) with the cave system consisting of often extremely narrow, flooded passageways that make transit difficult for even the most experienced rescue workers and divers.
Put more simply, they are unable to simply carry the 13 out of the caves.
Thai rescue workers and Navy Seals, with the support of an international contingent including rescue workers from Australia, China and the United Kingdom are currently exploring a number of options.
Of the options, two currently stand out – training the Mae Sai 13 to dive and then after a period of time taking them out that way or alternatively wait until water levels in the cave system drop far enough to allow the group to walk and climb out of the cave. On the latter, authorities continue to pump water out of the cave system but with the massive volume of water involved and a prediction of further rain later this week, let alone it currently being wet season, it could be months until water levels are low enough for the kids to get out on their own feet.
The diving option, the more likely of the two at this point, will require rescue workers training the kids on the finer arts of diving to a point that they consider it safe to attempt that exit option. While a basic open water PADI diving course can be completed in two days, there’s a world of difference between open water diving and cave diving.
A basic cave diving course takes a minimum of eight days and that’s for open cavern diving versus the types of diving involved in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave – making the challenge of bringing the 13 up to a safe diving standard even more difficult again.
Authorities are aware of this and according to reports they’re currently planning on shipping 4 months worth of food and water into the cave for the worse case waiting scenario. We can only hope that it doesn’t take that long.