NYT-verhaal over de Thaise cave kids. 1 duiker overleden, zuurstof raakt op, duik extreem moeilijk, stortbui verwacht
Kijk, geschreven kwaliteitsjournalistiek over a-politieke onderwerpen, dat kunnen ze gelukkig ook nog steeds. Geen idee of het mag, en zo niet, dan wachten we NYT's litigation squads gewoon keurig bij de deur op, maar we copy pasten het New York Times-verhaal door Mike Ives, Richard Paddock en Muktita Suhartono gewoon even integraal onderstaand, want werkelijk alles is intrigerend en we houden ons hart vast.
"THAM LUANG CAVE, Thailand — One cave diver called it the underground equivalent of climbing Mount Everest — but with no guides to make things easier. Another detailed a grueling six-hour ordeal, including having to climb over boulders several stories high before again submerging in viciously strong and murky currents.
For the 140 cave divers from Thailand and around the world who are involved, the effort to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a remote cavern in the flooded Tham Luang Cave network in northern Thailand has pushed their abilities to the utmost.
Interviews with the most experienced of them have centered on a stark fact: This was already one of the most difficult cave-diving challenges in the world, and now they must somehow keep the weakened boys reasonably healthy in oxygen-depleted air while trying to teach them how to attempt an underwater escape.
The dangers of the operation came into devastating focus on Friday with the death of a volunteer, a retired Thai Navy SEAL diver named Saman Gunan, 38, who lost consciousness on his way back from placing extra tanks along the route to the trapped boys. Thai officials said he died around 2 a.m. Friday after attempts to revive him.
The rescue divers here are painfully aware that they are working against a deadline, even as they try to gauge and navigate a cave network with complex geology, vanishingly narrow passages in places and rushing currents swollen from monsoon rains.
“When we found the boys, we thought that the boys would be able to survive in there for a long time,” the Thai Navy SEAL commander, Rear Adm. Arpakorn Yookongkaew, told reporters on Friday. “But now, things have changed. We have limited time. We have to work hard.”
The oxygen level in the boys’ cavern is about 15 percent and decreasing, he said, which is cause for concern: Below 16 percent can cause hypoxia, which in extreme cases can be fatal.
So the divers’ labor has been desperate. On Thursday evening, they began running a hose toward the cavern in hopes of pumping in more air, in addition to carrying in air tanks for future use, as Mr. Saman had.
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Divers are also working to run a communications line to the cavern so officials can better coordinate the rescue attempt and allow the boys some contact with their families. As it stands now, messages must be couriered in and out with divers, who risk an arduous 12-hour round-trip journey from cave mouth to the cavern, almost three miles in, and back.
Ben Reymenants, a Belgian cave diver who operates a dive shop in Thailand, was part of the group that , after more than a week of searching. He said the muddy current pushing against him on his initial dive felt as powerful as the Colorado River’s.
“You’re literally pulling yourself, hand over hand, in zero visibility,” Mr. Reymenants, 45, recalled in a telephone interview. “You can’t read your depth gauge, you can’t read the time, so you’re basically flying blind in a direction you don’t know.”
Mr. Reymenants said he and other experienced cave divers initially thought finding the group would be impossible under such terrible conditions.
But after it was clear that Thai Navy commanders would continue sending their SEAL members in, Mr. Reymenants said he volunteered to dive a second time.
“Those kids were at the age that they could have been my son,” he said. “A Navy SEAL can’t just sit there while these kids die in the cave. They have to show some activity — and if you’re a Navy SEAL, yes, you’ll sacrifice yourself.”
More than 110 of the divers are Thai SEAL members, and they have set up a command center in a dry area of the cave known as Chamber Three, where crews are based around the clock. It is about a mile from there to the boys, but it is the hardest mile. Most of it is underwater with few air pockets.
“All is water and dark,” Admiral Arpakorn said. “There are many alleys, up and down. We can say this mission is very brutal.”
One American cave diver, an Air Force rescue specialist who is part of a team sent to help from Okinawa, Japan, said that bringing the boys out now would require shepherding them through underwater passageways as much as a quarter-mile long without air pockets above.
The cave complex, which has never been fully mapped, has many different formations, said the American, who could not be identified by name for security reasons.
It is not a single river running through the cave, he said, and not all of the waterways appear to be directly connected. Pumping water from spots near the cave entrance does not necessarily reduce the level in more distant parts of the network, like where the boys and their coach are.
Underwater, everything is 10 times as difficult as it would be above ground: communicating, solving complex technical problems, providing emergency care, just moving around, he said.
The terrain varies from one area to the next — from sandy bottom to deep mud to boulders the size of a house. In one place, waters converge to create occasional geysers.
Currents can flow quickly, especially when it has been raining outside and the water level in the cave rises.
In some places, he said, one can see waterlines high on the walls of the cave — much higher than today’s levels — showing how high the water has risen in the past.
Some passages are excruciatingly narrow — as small as 2 feet by 2½ feet, Mr. Reymenants said. But the circumstances compelled him to explore the cave in a way that was risky even for a professional who had dived in dangerous spots across the globe, he said.
“Normally, I’d just turn around,” he said, “but then normally I don’t have 12 boys, and their entire lives, as an endpoint.”
Even as the divers and rescue officials navigate the challenges of that environment, concern over the depleting oxygen in the boys’ cavern has become a main concern, Thai officials said.
The commander of the search and rescue operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said Thursday night that three people in the cave were getting weaker, although they remained in reasonably good condition.
One of the three is believed to be the coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, who is said to have given his share of the meager food supply to the boys during their 10-day ordeal before they were found.
Reduced oxygen can also cause serious problems. Dinko Novosel, the president of the European Cave Rescue Association, said in a telephone interview that with an oxygen concentration of 15 percent or less in a cave — roughly where it is now — “You can survive, but you cannot walk around or do anything. It’s like being in the high mountains.”
Admiral Arpakorn said divers would continue the work that Mr. Saman had been doing, bringing in air tanks and placing them at designated points along the route to the group’s cavern.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, who has closely monitored the rescue operation, directed that Mr. Saman receive a royal sponsored funeral and that his family be taken care of.
A video clip shared widely on Twitter showed Mr. Saman wearing sunglasses as he stood near the steps of an airplane.
“We will bring the kids home,” he said."