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According to Live Science (This article and its images were originally posted on Live Science July 8, 2018 at 12:53AM.)
About 18 divers entered the cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand, Sunday morning (July 8), where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks, according to news reports.
Though many had said they considered a diving rescue a last resort, as the boys have no diving experience and some were malnourished and experiencing exhaustion from their time in the cave, rain began falling in the area on Saturday. Officials were concerned that monsoon rains, which were forecast for today, would make such a rescue essentially impossible.
“If we don’t start now, we might lose the chance,” Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said, according to news reports. As water levels rise in the cave, the distance the boys would have to dive increases. [The Very Real Risks of Rescuing the Boys Trapped in a Thai Cave]
The boys and their coach hiked into the Tham Luang cave complex when it was relatively dry, only to be walled in after monsoon rains triggered a flash flood.
This past week, water levels have been declining in the cave, as the rain has held off and officials have continued to pump water out of the cave system.
“The shorter the dive distance, the increased margin of safety,” George Veni, executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute and president of the International Union of Speleology, told Live Science. “Also, air bells may develop along the way to create a series of two or more shorter dives instead of one long dive,” Veni said, adding that “lower water levels means the force of the water is less.” [Photos: Rescuers Race Against Time to Save Soccer Team Trapped in Thai Cave]
One of the big concerns with cave diving is the violently flowing water that can make a short dive risky for even an expert, said Edd Sorenson, a regional coordinator in Florida for the nonprofit International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery. (Sorenson is also the safety officer for the National Speleological Society-Cave Diving Section.)
The Thai Navy SEALS were teaching the trapped soccer team the basics of cave diving, but as recently as Friday, Gov. Osatanakorn said the kids were not adequately trained to make the risky dive out.
The team is reportedly holed up in a chamber about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) into the cave, with experienced divers taking about 11 hours up and back during delivery missions over the past week.
“Diving in caves is very risky; it’s very unforgiving. If something goes wrong, you can’t go up for air,” Veni told Live Science earlier in the week. “In case of an emergency, you may have to swim underwater for 10 minutes and do some underwater gymnastics to get through a narrow space and get up to air.”
Veni added, “You’re in total darkness; essentially, you’re swimming through mud.”
Each of the boys will be paired up with two trained divers, and it will take at least 11 hours for the first person to be brought out.
This is an ongoing story, and Live Science will continue to update this article as news comes in on the rescue mission.
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