Thai Cave Rescue:
A Timeline of Events
By Therese Aseoche
(Updated July 10, 11 P.M.) For weeks, we’ve followed the nerve-wracking search-and-rescue operations of a Thai soccer team, The Wild Boars, and their coach trapped inside a cave due to heavy rains. Here is a timeline of events from when they were first reported missing on June 23rd, Saturday, until the successful emergence of the first four boys out of the cave on July 8, Sunday.
June 23: Trapped
On June 23, the 12 boys — all aged 16 and below — and their 25-year-old coach had been practicing football when they thought of exploring the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Northern Thailand despite warnings of danger especially during the monsoon season. It happened before; visitors would get stuck by rising waters inside the cave.
As heavy rains began to pour, flood waters started gushing in through the cave and blocking the team’s only exit, and trapping them almost 3 kilometers deep inside.
June 24: Initial search attempts
The boys were reported missing when they failed to return home that night, and local officials began their search. They eventually found their bicycles locked to a fence and the kids’ shoes and football equipment near the entrance of the cave. Park officials and police also found fresh handprints and footprints around the cave that were believed to belong to the team members, and it sparked suspicion that they must have retreated far into the cave as they became surrounded by rising floodwater.
June 25: Major search operations begin
Starting June 25, major search and rescue operations were made with Thai Navy Seal divers entering the cave carrying food and supplies for the trapped victims. However, they couldn’t get far enough due to the rushing floodwaters and had to retreat.
June 27: US Military, British diving experts, and more join the operations
By the fourth day, a team of more than 30 American military personnel from the US Pacific Command, along with 17 US air force rescue, three British diving experts, and experts from different countries — including a Thailand-based Filipino rock climber — arrive to lend a hand. However, continuous heavy flooding made it difficult for them to take swift action.
As water pumps are brought into the cave to drain out the rising floodwaters, the volunteers and experts scour around the mountainous area for other options to evacuate the boys. One of the initial options being considered was to drill right through an area of the mountain. However, the idea was quickly scrapped on account of the amount of effort, time, and resources it would cost.
Days go by and the divers and rescuers continue to search deep inside the cave complex under the mercy of the weather conditions.
July 2: 13 Wild Boars finally found
Days of searching have finally brought good news as the 12 boys and their coach were finally found 400 meters away from Pattaya Beach.
They were immediately given food and first aid as the rescuers and officials planned how to get all of them out as safely and as swiftly as possible. There was a lot to consider: the length of the journey, the capability of the boys to swim and dive, the quickly depleting oxygen, and the torrential rains that could continuously flood the caves with brown murky water.
But hope was there— that was what mattered.
July 5: The first casualty
On Thursday, former Thai navy diver Saman Kunan died as he was delivering oxygen tanks to the victims but didn’t have enough on him to endure the eleven-hour return trip from the entrance of the cave and back. He had lost consciousness in the middle of his journey and could not be revived by his teammates.
The incident opened everyone’s eyes to the gravity of the situation and the high risks that were involved in bringing the boys out of the flooded cave complex via diving through the water.
July 7: Elon Musk offers his support
After hearing of the news, Elon Musk tweeted a plan to create a “tiny, kid-sized submarine” to help rescue the kids and even publicized videos testing it out.
Got more great feedback from Thailand. Primary path is basically a tiny, kid-size submarine using the liquid oxygen transfer tube of Falcon rocket as hull. Light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps. Extremely robust.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 7, 2018
Testing underwater in LA pool pic.twitter.com/CDO2mtjP2D
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
However, time and weather constraints saw his noble efforts being a little too late to be considered. Rescuers decided to go with the initial plan of having the victims make the treacherous, hours-long dive alongside them outside of the cave.
July 8 to 10: The successful rescuing
On Sunday, July 8, the daring rescue mission began at 10 A.M. with 13 divers going inside the cave. Each boy to be brought out of the cave was given a full scuba mask, wetsuit, boots, and a helmet, and would be strapped to a diver buddy.
After less than 8 hours since the operations began, rescuers successfully emerge with four boys out of 13 — the first two arriving at 5:40 P.M., and the other two at 7:40 P.M. and 7:50 P.M.
The four boys were given initial treatments at a field hospital near the cave before they were rushed to Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital.
On Monday, July 9 four more boys have emerged on Monday, July 9 and have been transported to the hospital.
— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) July 9, 2018
According to The Guardian, the rescuers are now able to retrieve the boys faster than expected, with the first operation of the day which started at 11 A.M. and ended at 4:30 P.M. taking only 5.5 hours, much less than the 11-hour roundtrips divers and rescuers have been making the past week.
UPDATE: As of July 10 11 P.M., all 12 boys and their coach have been freed. The remaining divers and medic have also exited the cave. All members are at the hospital as of writing.
What are your thoughts on this news? Sound off below!