Thailand Cave Rescue: Divers Start Mission as Elon Musk’s Team Continues Building Mini-Submarine

While Musk and his team of engineers are building a mini-submarine to evacuate trapped boys in Thailand cave, a rescue mission involving divers and Navy Seals is already underway

Thailand Cave Rescue: Divers Start Mission as Elon Musk’s Team Continues Building Mini-Submarine

Elon Musk and his team of company engineers have been working on a “kid-sized submarine,” with inputs from Thailand, in an effort to save the lives of 12 boys in their teens and preteens along with their 25-year-old soccer coach, trapped in a watery cave.

The Tesla and Space X billionaire has been brainstorming different ideas on Twitter over the past few days to chalk out a viable rescue plan to get the beleaguered group out from deep inside the flooded Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand, where they’ve been languishing for the last 15 days.

Musk tweeted a number of possible solutions: from boring holes into the cave to using an inflatable nylon tube to create an escape route for the boys – an idea he tweeted on Thursday – to his Friday tweet about building “double-layer Kevlar pressure pods with Teflon coating to slip by rocks.”

However, he finally settled on the ‘kid-sized submarine” idea he tweeted on Saturday, saying that work on the mini-sub was already underway and that it would be ready in about 8 hours for the 17-hour haul to Thailand.

Musk then shared some features of the rescue pod in a follow-up tweet, saying that it would have four handles, or hitch points, on the front and four on the rear, with 2 air tank connections up front and two on the rear.

This would make it possible to connect up to 4 tanks simultaneously, all of which will be “recessed” to protect them from impact damage, while a cap seal on each tank will serve as the second line of defense against leaks.

Meanwhile, Thai authorities announced this morning (Sunday, July 8) that an evacuation mission has been initiated.

An international team of 13 professional divers and 5 Thai Navy Seals descended into the flooded maze of underground tunnels below the Mae Sai mountains, at 10 am local time, as the families of the stricken group, the nation and, indeed, the entire world pray for their success.

“Our readiness is at the highest today. Today is D-day,” said Narongsak Osotthanakorn – Governor of Chiang Rai who has been leading the rescue efforts ever since the boys went missing.

“The boys are ready to face any challenges,” he said, adding that the families of the group have been informed and have given their consent to the evacuation efforts underway.

Based on a doctor’s assessment of the boys, he said that they were all “very fit physically and mentally” and that “they are determined and focused.”

Soon after the rescue operation commenced, it started raining heavily, somewhat dampening the hopes of millions around the world who have been keenly following the story.

With more monsoon rains forecasted for the coming days, the chance of success is going to get increasingly bleaker until it becomes non-existent as the cave gets sealed off until the end of the rainy season in October.

However, according to Governor Osotthanakorn, water levels are at their lowest inside the cave as of now and there wouldn’t have been a better day to attempt the evacuation than today as things are going to get worse from here on.

“There is no other day that we are more ready than today,” said Osotthanakorn. “Otherwise we will lose the opportunity,” he added.

“We have two obstacles: water and time. This is what we have been racing against since day one. We have to do all we can, even though it is hard to fight the force of nature,” he said.

“All we need is a suitable time window when all conditions are right to carry out the operation, we have been waiting for this right moment.”

The rescuers will have to carefully navigate a complex network of tunnels that get claustrophobically narrow in certain stretches, before they can reach the boys and their coach, waiting in anticipation four kilometers inside the cave with a dwindling supply of oxygen and flood water all around them.

The plan is to evacuate the boys one at a time to Chamber Three, which is the makeshift rescue command center in the caves, from where specialist rescue teams will take over to guide the group through Chambers One and Two into the waiting arms of their loved ones.

“Today the water level in chambers number One, Two and Three inside the cave is low enough to walk through them,” said Osotthanakorn.

Rescue workers have been relentlessly pumping out the flood water from the caves, fighting desperately against time.

“The water of some parts recedes as much as 30 cm (11.8 inches), it is considered the lowest level for the past 10 days,” Osotthanakorn said.

A former Thai Navy Seal died of asphyxiation on Thursday as he was returning after delivering oxygen supply to the boys.

Twelve boys, belonging to the same soccer team, headed into the caves with their mentor on June 23 and got trapped in one of the chambers in the cave system when flash floods cut off their route to the outside world and prevented rescuers from locating them for nearly 10 days.

With the monsoon season in full swing and more rains on the cards and with oxygen levels depleting fast, it has been a race against time for the rescuers, who have been working tirelessly, around the clock, to keep the boys alive and healthy with a constant supply of food and oxygen.

Even for trained divers, it’s an 11-hour round trip from the rescue command center in Chamber Three to where the boys are trapped.

So, even if everything goes according to plan, fingers crossed, the boys can’t be expected to reach the surface before 21:00 local time (14:00 GMT), on Sunday.

According to one official, it could take 2-3 days to get the entire group out of the watery depths of the caves.

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