Soldiers carry a pump to help drain the rising flood water in a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Friday, July 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thais fight water and oxygen levels in cave as diver dies

Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region

Authorities overseeing the rescue operation for 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand said they have a “limited amount of time” to get them out, as they raced against worsening weather and lessening oxygen underground.

The massive operation inside and around Tham Luang Nang Non cave suffered its first death Friday when a former Thai navy SEAL passed out underwater and could not be revived.

“We can no longer wait for all conditions (to be ready) because circumstances are pressuring us,” Thai SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew told a news conference. “We originally thought the boys can stay safe inside the cave for quite some time, but circumstances have changed. We have limited amount of time.”

Oxygen levels are decreasing because of the amount of workers inside the cave and workers were trying to run an oxygen line into the chambers in addition to the oxygen canisters used by divers, Chiang Rai province Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said late Thursday.

A senior army commander, Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakam, said the most pressing mission is the oxygen line. It is tied to a telephone line to provide a channel of communication for the kids, who are stuck deep in the complex but are being looked after by four SEALs, including a medic.

The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach went exploring in the cave after a soccer game June 23. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days as the only way to reach them was by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.

Authorities have been racing to pump out water from the cave before more storms in the coming days raise the water levels again. At this time though, diving is the only possible method of escape, even though cave rescue experts warn it is extremely dangerous even for those with experience.

Related: Rescuers race to drain water inside Thai cave before rains

Related: Warm in blankets, Thai boys smile, joke with rescuer in cave

Friday’s death of the former SEAL underscores those risks. The diver was working in a volunteer capacity and died during an overnight mission in which he was placing oxygen canisters along the route divers use to get to the children, Arpakorn said.

The strategically placed canisters allow divers to stay underwater for longer during what is about a five-hour trip to reach the stranded team.

While underwater, the rescuer passed out and efforts to resuscitate him failed, Arpakorn said. Another navy official said he didn’t believe the man’s oxygen tank ran out.

“Despite this, we will continue until we accomplish our mission,” Arpakorn said.

The governor has said the 13 may not be extracted at the same time, depending on their condition. They boys are weak but for the most part physically healthy. They’ve practiced wearing diving masks and breathing, in preparation for the diving possibility.

Officials prefer to get the boys out as soon as possible because heavy rain is expected by Saturday.

They are hoping that an upgraded draining effort can lower the water in an area where it is still at or near the ceiling. The idea is to get some headroom so the boys would not be reliant on scuba apparatus for a long stretch and could keep their heads above water.

Cave rescue experts have said it could be safest to simply supply the boys where they are, and wait for the flooding to subside. That could take months, however, given that Thailand’s rainy season typically lasts through October. And without proper oxygen levels, staying put could also prove deadly.

Tassanee Vejpongsa And Kaweewit Kaewjinda, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

First residents move into Nuxalk Nation’s tiny homes

Four of the tiny homes are now complete and residents have moved in

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Most Read