By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Thai – PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday commended the Government of Thailand and international volunteers in the current efforts to rescue 12 children and their coach trapped in a cave for more than two weeks, with imminent risks of starvation and death.
Reacting to ongoing rescue efforts which are already yielding positive results, President Buhari said Thailand has inspired other developing nations that, despite limited resources, a people can achieve success through their efforts towards emergency response.
The President in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu said, ”In a globalised world, the bond of our common humanity is getting stronger day by day.
”Although Thailand is located thousands of miles away from us, we in Nigeria share the pains and difficulties of these trapped teenagers who face imminent danger to their lives.
“The way the international community responded with empathy and enthusiasm, is evidence that our common humanity is greater than our differences.
“When we perceive the victims as our own children, we are bound to identify with the trapped kids and be moved to action.”
According to the statement, President Buhari was inspired by the response of the Thai government to the crisis; and the dedication and enthusiasm of the rescue teams.
Thai cave rescue: a timeline
Thai authorities on Sunday rescued four boys among 13 trapped in a cave for more than two weeks, in a dramatic operation that involved having the children dive through dark, flooded passages.
The operation to extract the rest of the group with the help of elite foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALs will restart on Monday after supplies are restocked, authorities said.
With fresh monsoon rains due that could flood the cave, rescuers warn the window of opportunity to evacuate the boys is “limited”.
Here is a timeline of the efforts to find and free the group.
– Saturday, June 23 –
The youngsters, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach enter the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand during heavy rains after football practice.
They are reported missing by a mother after her son does not come home that night. Local officials find bicycles locked to a fence and shoes and football boots close to the entrance.
– Sunday, June 24 –
Park officials and police find handprints and footprints believed to belong to the boys. Relatives start to keep a vigil outside the cave.
– Monday, June 25 –
Thai Navy SEAL divers enter the cave searching for the boys. Makeshift shrines are set up for parents to pray and make offerings as heavy rains continue.
– Tuesday, June 26 –
Divers reach a T-junction several kilometres inside the cave but are forced back by rushing floodwaters that clog a narrow crevice near an elevated air pocket called “Pattaya Beach”, where the boys are believed to have retreated.
– Wednesday, June 27 –
A team of more than 30 American military personnel from the US Pacific Command arrive, including pararescue and survival specialists.
They are joined by three British diving experts who enter the cave but quickly retreat in the face of heavy flooding.
– Thursday, June 28 –
The underwater rescue is temporarily halted after downpours bring fast-moving floods inside the cave.
Water pumps are shipped in to drain the rising, murky floodwaters and drones are dispatched to help find new vents in the cave roof.
– Friday, June 29 –
Thailand’s junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha visits the site, leads a meditation and jokes and cooks with relatives, asking them not to give up hope.
– Saturday, June 30 –
A break in the rain allows divers to reach further inside the cave but they are still a long distance from where the boys are believed to be.
– Sunday, July 1 –
Divers inch further into the cave, as an operating base is set up inside and hundreds of air tanks and other supplies are pulleyed in.
– Monday, July 2 –
Finally, a miracle: the 12 boys and their coach are found alive late Monday evening about 400 metres beyond Pattaya Beach by the British cave diving team.
Crowds at the teeming rescue site cheer the good news, but attention soon turns to the difficult task of getting the boys out safely.
– Tuesday, July 3 –
Much-needed food and medical supplies — including high-calorie gels and paracetamol — reach the boys as rescuers prepare for the possibility that they may remain in the cave for some time.
– Wednesday, July 4 –
Officials say the group are being taught how to use diving masks and breathing apparatuses. Teams pump out water around the clock as more rain is forecast for the days ahead.
– Thursday, July 5 –
In a sign of increased urgency, authorities say expected rains may force a complex rescue quicker than first thought. A team of bird’s nest collectors scour the mountainside in search of new openings into the cave roof.
– Friday, July 6 –
Tragedy strikes: a diver helping to establish an airline to the boys dies after passing out while returning from the chamber.
Saman Kunan’s death raises serious doubts over the safety of attempting a rescue through the cave’s cramped and waterlogged passageways.
Thailand’s Navy SEAL commander says oxygen levels inside have dropped. He warns the window of opportunity to free the youngsters is “limited”, in the first official admission that the rescue cannot wait out the monsoon rains.
– Saturday, July 7 –
Rescue operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn says it is “not suitable” yet to have the boys dive to safety.
A scrawled message emerges from the team’s coach, offering his “apologies” to their parents.
The head of the rescue mission says more than 100 vents are being drilled into the mountainside in a frantic bid to reach the boys.
– Sunday, July 8 –
Divers lead four of the boys out of the cave complex as night falls, sending them to the hospital. Narongsak says they are “safe” but no other details are given about their conditions.
Narongsak says late in the evening that the rescue mission will not start again for at least another 10 hours to give time for oxygen and other supplies need to be replenished.
Though unfinished the rescue is celebrated and hailed on social media by Thais, who have been following the saga closely.