11 July 2024

As SEAL units continued to painstakingly advance today toward the spot where the 12 missing young footballers and their coach are being trapped in Tham Luang cave, rescue teams have located six cavities and started drilling for possible points of entry at two of them.

Third Army Region deputy commander Maj-Gen Supachoke Thawatphirachai said army troops had surveyed six cavities today with one of them as deep as 400 meters from the mouth of the cavity and could still go further down.

Troops managed to descend about 50 metres through another cavity, he said, adding that an assessment would be made about all the six cavities tonight.

As for drilling on Doi Pha Mee where a drilling machine and other equipment have been airlifted there, the general said drilling would start tonight.

For the second cavity, he said airlifting of equipment was not possible, but the drilling equipment would be disassembled and carried up the mountain by men.

There were encouraging signs earlier in the morning when Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn confirmed at a press conference that the SEAL rescuers had reached the fork in the cave called Sam Yaek that leads to the elevated ground known as Pattaya Beach.  Shortly afterwards, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters in Bangkok that he had been informed that the rescue teams should be able to reach the target area within today.

But as night fell on the ninth day of the rescue operation, there were still no signs of contact with the missing boys.  The passage leading to Pattaya Beach is on the left of the fork but the governor said with enough personnel, the SEAL teams will also attempt to advance toward the right passage.

While the rescue mission still focuses on reaching Pattaya Beach, authorities do not discount the possibility of the missing boys sheltering at other known dry spots.  Even Gen Prawit admitted today that it was not absolutely certain that the soccer team was taking refuge at Pattaya Beach.

The distance between the fork and Pattaya Beach is estimated to be about 2 kilometers but the passage is blocked by flood waters.  Strong currents and rough terrains pose the biggest challenge for the rescue teams.

In his evening news briefing, Chiang Rai governor reported that irrigation experts today succeeded in blocking rain water from flowing into the cave.  Coupled with continuous draining of flood waters, they were able to lower the water level in the cave at a rate of 1 centimeter and hour.

Meanwhile, another exercise to test the preparedness of authorities concerned in handling an emergency evacuation was conducted today.   Officials of Chiang Rai Hospital reported that it was fully prepared to receive the 12 soccer players and their coach if they are rescued and transported there.