As the search for the 12 missing young footballers and their coach enters its eighth day, all hopes seem to be pinned on the Navy SEAL rescue teams that have successfully established a forward command inside Tham Luang cave and are painstakingly advancing toward a chamber where their targets are believed to be taking refuge.
The SEAL teams are now less than 3 kilometers away from the so-called Pattaya Beach where the teenaged footballers are seeking shelter. But SEAL commander Rear Adm Arpakorn Yookongkaew admitted that muddy water and difficult terrains are posing the biggest challenge. SEAL divers have to operate in darkness and with constant needs for refilling of their oxygen tanks.
Maj Gen Suppachoke Thawatpirachai, deputy commander of Region 3 Army, said so far SEAL divers have been able to cover a distance of only 600 metres toward the target area. “Each team advances about 200 metres at a time to establish a guiding rope for the next team,” he said
Rear Adm Arpakorn said the SEAL rescue teams will continue their advance non-stop. “We will not stop until we find them,” he said.
Following an appeal for more oxygen tanks for SEAL divers, an additional 200 oxygen cylinders arrived this evening.
Though the rescue mission is concentrated on the Pattaya Beach, Thai PBS news team reported that rescuers also continued to explore shafts leading into another end of Tham Luang cave known as Doi Pha Mee. They do not discount the possibility that the missing 13 might have sought shelter in a chamber at the spot.
Maj Gen Suppachoke said that troops from the army special force conducted searches for cavities which could provide new routes into the cave as told by villagers, adding that the troops today surveyed 2-3 cavities and used drills to enlarge them so they could descend for surveying.
Myanmar authorities also reported that they still continued to explore for possible shafts in the cave on the Myanmar side.
Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said rain water was continuously drained out from Tham Luang cave and the water level has been gradually receding, making the rescue mission less difficult.
As rescue teams work tirelessly to find the missing, the show of a spirit of volunteerism continues. More crucial equipment, such as water pumps and water chutes, were donated by private companies to the rescue units while well-known chefs from Bangkok and volunteers from other parts of the country brought in foods and set up emergency kitchens for the rescue teams, relief workers and family of the missing.
Meanwhile, bothered by persistent rumours and speculation about the rescue operation, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha today ordered the launch of a LINE application to combat fake news. Called “Truths About Thailand,” the application is designed not only to deal with fake news concerning the Tham Luang rescue operation, but also to cope with rumours and misinformation on other issues, according to Government Spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd.