The final stage of rescue operations for the Thai boys’ soccer team that has been stuck in a cave for three weeks is set to begin soon, the Telegraph is reporting. Eight of the 12 boys have been safely extracted from the cave, while four boys remain trapped in there, along with their coach.
Narongsak Osottanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province and the head of the joint command center coordinating the rescue mission, said on Monday night (Thailand time) that a third — and possibly final — rescue mission will begin on Tuesday afternoon. As these words are being typed (approximately 6:30 p.m. Eastern time Monday night), it’s early Tuesday morning in Bangkok (approximately 5:30 a.m.).
Osottanakorn would not confirm whether or not Tuesday’s rescue effort will be the final push to free the team. However, the possibility remains that one person — likely the coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, 25 — may have to wait inside the cave for 24 more hours.
“For safety, the best number is four.”
So far this week, two dramatic rescues have managed to extract eight of the boys from the cave. Beginning with the weakest, divers from the Thai Navy SEALS, joined by expert divers from around the world, have been removing the boys from the cave one at a time.
Using a “buddy system” consisting of one experienced diver in front and one experienced diver in back, the boys have been led through a complicated system of tunnels and caverns in order to make the roughly three-mile, treacherous trek out of the cave. The process is death-defying even for the most experienced divers, to say nothing of adolescent boys who are malnourished, and many of whom couldn’t even swim before being trapped in the cave. So treacherous is the journey that already one man has died in the rescue efforts.
As for the boys who have been rescued, they’ve all been whisked away via helicopter to nearby hospitals. Their desperate parents, who have been camped outside the caves for weeks, fervently praying for the boys’ safe return, have been warned that “hugs and kisses” will have to wait until the boys have been checked out medically.
As of this writing, none of the rescued boys have been identified by name, for fear of upsetting the parents of the boys who remain trapped inside.
Meanwhile, the plight of the boys’ soccer team has captured the world’s attention. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has invited the team to the World Cup finals in Moscow, scheduled for July 15, if they are healthy enough by then.