Caver living in Việt Nam heads to Thailand

July 04, 2018 - 06:00

Howard Limbert, the British cave expert, who found Sơn Đoòng, the world's biggest cave leaves Phong Nha - Kẻ Bàng National Park today. 

An undated handout photo released by the Royal Thai Army yesterday shows the missing 13 young members of a youth soccer team including their coach, moments after they were found inside the cave complex at Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park, Chiang Rai province, Thailand. Chiang Rai provincial Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said on Monday that all of 13 members of a youth soccer team including their coach have been found alive in the cave. — EPA/VNA photo
Viet Nam News

QUẢNG BÌNH — Howard Limbert and Nguyễn Châu Á are heading to Chiang Rai today to offer their assistance to a group of young boys that have been trapped in a Thai cave for over nine days. A team of rescuers, including members of the Thai Royal Army and others from at least six countries including the UK, US and China, located the youngsters on Monday night.  

"They are lucky the cave is warm because caves in other parts of the world, it would have been difficult to survive that length of time," Howard said exclusively to Việt Nam News in an e-mail.

Limbert, who has spent the last 30 years of his life in Quảng Bình Province and studying the caves in Việt Nam, found the world’s biggest cave, Sơn Đoòng, in 2006. He praised the expertise of British cavers, John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, both experts on cave rescues, who had taken part in many rescue dives in the past.

"The British cave divers are the best in the world and if they couldn’t find them, no one could," Limbert continued. "Thai authorities were very sensible in arranging the British divers to help out."

He added that he was positive "the boys will recover well when they are back with their families."

But he also warned of difficulties for a full rescue. "Good news is that they have found the boys safe but still difficult times ahead," he wrote, but declined to elaborate until further details are known. 

Howard Limbert heads to Chiang Rai today. Photo Nguyễn Văn Tâm

Diving a possibility

A top Thai official said yesterday that heavy rains forecast for the coming days could worsen floods in a mountain cave, forcing authorities to speed up their extraction of the 12 boys and the soccer coach who are trapped there.

Officials early said the 13 are mostly in stable medical condition and have received high-protein liquid food after they were located late on Monday night in the cave in northern Chiang Rai province during a desperate search that drew international help and captivated the nation.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said yesterday that the boys may need to swim out using diving equipment ahead of bad weather forecast for later in the week. He said the boys would be brought out via the same complicated route through which their rescuers entered.

While efforts are to pump out the floodwaters continue, Anupong said it’s clear some areas cannot be drained and in order to get out, the boys may need to use diving gear while being guided by two professional divers each. He conceded that if something went awry, it could be disastrous.

"Diving is not easy. For people who have never done it, it will be difficult, unlike diving in a swimming pool, because the cave’s features have small channels," he said. "If something happens mid-way it could be life-threatening."

All 12 boys aged 11 to 16 years old and their 25-year-old coach were found alive by British cave divers. VNA/XINHUA Photo

Video released early yesterday by the Thai navy showed the boys in their soccer uniforms sitting on a dry area inside the cave above the water as a spotlight from a rescuer illuminated their faces.

Chiang Rai provincial Gov Narongsak Osatanakorn said the health of the boys and coach were checked using a field assessment in which red is critical condition, yellow is serious and green is stable.

"We found that most of the boys are in green condition," he said. "Maybe some of the boys have injuries or light injuries and would be categorized as yellow condition. But no one is in red condition."

Cave rescue experts have said it could be safer to simply supply them where they are for now, rather than attempting to have the boys dive out. That could take as long as months, however, given that Thailand’s rainy season typically lasts through October. — VNS/AP