Underwater robot and drones join the search of missing youth  football team today

As rescue teams  which included special team from Sweden began the search of 13 members of a youth football team went missing in the over 10-kilometre long cave in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai since last Saturday, the Royal Thai Air Force today flew a C130 plane from Don Mueang military airport  to the scene with a 13-member crew along  with a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) or robot and two drones  to help  in the search underwater and in the air.

The robot was invented by the King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok.

The plane arrived at Chiang Rai airport late this morning with a 13-member crew to operate  the tethered underwater mobile device, and drones.

The ROV has two robotic arms and  equipped with a video camera and lights. It is also added with several eequipment to expand the vehicle’s capabilities, including sonars, magnetometers, a still camera, a manipulator or cutting arm, water samplers, and instruments that measure water clarity, water temperature, water density, sound velocity, light penetration, and temperature.

The rescue team began the search again at dawn after over 60 hours since the football team was trapped in the cave.

Today’s operation will centre on a high ground area where the Navy Seal teams believed could be the place where the football team might escape to from the rising water to take shelter.

It  is about 500 metres from the farthest place where the Navy Seal team could reach yesterday.

But Navy Seal commander Captain Capt Anant Surawan said although the Navy Seal rescuers were  just 500 metres from the place, it is not easy to access to because it is submerged under deep water.

Rescuers have to dive in order to access the place, he said.

Meanwhile Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda also flew to Chiang Rai today to inspect the situation and supervise the overall rescue operation.

Yesterday’s the rescue operation  has been suspended temporarily after the increasing flood in the cave obstructed the Navy Seal rescuers  from going further inside the Tham Luang Khun Nang Non cave.

He recalled two risks that the rescuers was the sand that blocked the narrow channel which they have to dive  through.

The second risk is the water  which submerges the walkway.

“We had to dive in the darkness and could not see each other even we were so close. We did not know the end of the way that we had to dive through. We had to spare oxygen for the way back to return to the entrance. It is too risky. We need to suspend the operation,” he said.

But he  said that the SEAL team could reach the main hall inside the cave after 15 hours of the search operation but they had to retreat and the operation is temporarily halted after the intense and hard operation.

They were covered with mud, carrying oxygen tanks while leaving the cave with the back-up rescue teams. They will adjust the plan to find another way to reach the missing youths, believed to stay deep further from the main hall.

The mission yesterday  found traces of the missing football team, fingerprints and ropes. It is believed they moved inside to escape increasing water and now should stay at the end of the cave, he added.