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

Sooke author’s book highlights Salish Sea artists

The art is varied but the medium is the same

Video store in Langford shares secret to survival in the streaming age

Store manager, Tawny Artel, is happy kids can still pick out a movie in a store

Man and dog combo finish Canada-wide cycle for PTSD in Victoria

Brian Nadon and his dog, Ginger-Bella, run the Vatic Foundation to help those suffering from PTSD

Vancouver Island pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

Late night house fire in Esquimalt causes $100,000 damage

Fire crews arrived to see smoke and flames coming from a home on Bowlsby Place

UrbaCity raises record-breaking $70,000 for Island Prostate Centre

240 racers, corporate sponsors fill the coffers for the cause

Father, nine-year-old son killed in crash along B.C. highway

RCMP say family of five was hit head-on by a pickup truck north of Williams Lake

Two B.C. police departments won’t use new saliva test to detect high drivers

The Dräger DrugTest 5000 is designed to find THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana

Longtime Victoria radio broadcaster Terry Moore passes away

His career spanned six decades and included stops in major North American cities, before ending his career in Victoria

Canada aiming for the moon, and beyond, with new space technology efforts

With an eye on future lunar exploration, Canada’s space agency is calling on companies to present their ideas for everything from moon-rover power systems to innovative mineral prospecting techniques.

New Brunswick Premier meets with lieutenant-governor as Tories, Liberals vie for power

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said the only other leader he had spoken with since results came in was Green Leader David Coon.

Trudeau looks to restart Canada’s UN charm offensive in New York City

Freeland says the question of job retraining in the 21st century — and the uncertainty that surrounds it — is the federal government’s central preoccupation.

Calgary mayor seeks person who leaked details of closed-door Olympic meeting

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he will ask the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate a leak of details from an in-camera council meeting.

Victoria raises over $90,000 to support those with ALS

Society raises funds for research and patient support

Most Read