Editorial: World waits while Thai rescue goes on

Emergency workers carry a stretcher with one of the rescued boys. Picture: AP
Emergency workers carry a stretcher with one of the rescued boys. Picture: AP

Like everyone else I’ve been transfixed by the drama of the Thai schoolboys and their soccer coach in the Tham Luang cave.

The boys and their coach became stranded when they went exploring in the cave after a practice game on June 23.

Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days.

I remember vaguely a week or more ago hearing about their disappearance and the grave fears for their health in a dangerous cave system.

Then came the miraculous news that they had been found and they were all still alive.

That good news was quickly followed by news which was not so cheery. 

The British divers that found them had to struggle through narrow passages and muddy waters and found them on an elevated rock about 3km from the cave mouth.

While engineers started the thankless task of pumping out the water in the rainy season rescuers had the agonising choice of either teaching the boys and their coach basic dive techniques to enable their early rescue (and in some cases teaching them to swim) or wait months for the floodwaters to subside at the end of the monsoon season. 

The operation took a sad turn on Friday when we learned of the death of a Thai navy Seal in the operation, a reminder if one was needed just how dangerous this was.

Finally on Sunday the order was given to start the complicated rescue, with two divers for each boy in an operation that was estimated to last 11 hours for each person.

At the time of writing some of the boys have been rescued and the mission is ongoing.

The world remains spellbound.

The boys were, despite the World Cup ongoing in Russia, “the only soccer team that matter right now”.

Whatever happens from here, it has been an extraordinary operation and an example of cross-border human cooperation at its best. In a time when politics is dominated by fear and loathing and a hatred of the other, it is gratifying to see the other side of our behaviour, a willingness to help and serve others – even at the ultimate price – Derek Barry