Thai boys rescue

Thai cave boys: what are the rescue options?

July 7, 2018

On June 23, 12 boys from a soccer team called the Wild Boars and their coach entered a cave complex in northern Thailand as part of an initiation challenge for new team members. They were soon reported missing. Since then the entire world has been captivated by their situation. Families and well-wishers alike are desperate for a successful outcome

Tham Luang Nang Non cave

The cave system
Tham Luang Nang Non cave is located in northern Thailand. It is one of the country’s largest cave systems and is popular with tourists. However, it is prone to flooding during the monsoon season between the end of June and September

Complex tunnels

How water enters the cave

Storms are forecast for the next few days. The rock in this area easily absorbs rainwater due to its porous nature. The rescue teams are concerned that the caves could flood quickly

Rain outside the cave increased rapidly after the boys entered the complex, flooding the passages and leaving them trapped. The heavy rains forecast presents a frightening scenario because the water levels could increase quickly again

Teams are working to drain the flooded cave. About 128 million litres of water had been pumped out by late Thursday, equivalent to about 1.6 million litres an hour. It is hoped they can be led to the surface once enough water has been drained from the passages

Communication problems

Real-time communication in a flooded cave is a big challenge. Electronic devices must remain dry and the dense rock restricts their range. However, the international team supporting the Thai authorities managed to come up with a simple but ingenious solution

The team inside the cave established a series of walkie talkies connected to each other over 4km, from just outside the cave, with a delay of less than half a second

Rescue scenarios

The Thai authorities are considering several options to free the youngsters from the cave. If they choose to escape through the cave’s passages, a long and arduous route full of complications awaits them and is likely to take more than three hours

If most of the cave is drained the boys could be helped out by rescue teams. Slime on the cave floor, steep slopes, narrow steps, and stones with sharp edges that can tear the skin, are some of the problems they would face

The youngsters will need to scuba dive if the drainage is insufficient and leaves sections of the cave complex submerged. Although they will be assisted by experienced divers this option is extremely risky as none of the boys can swim and are obviously not used to this kind of environment

Experts are searching for chimneys along the route to provide access to the boys if heavy rains forces their hand

Possible health issues

The onerous conditions in which the boys are living could have an immediate effect on their health and might cause any manner of psychological and physical issues even after they have been rescued

Key events

After the rescue

The protocol is clearly defined if a rescue is possible in the short term

Check their health and carry them out on stretchers

Transfer them to ambulances (one for each person) and drive them to a nearby makeshift hospital

Triage and resuscitation unit re-examines their physical condition

Carry them to helicopters and care for them during the chopper ride

Admit them to Chiangrai Prachanukroh hospital and monitor their health


Here are some of the awards that this graphic has obtained

  • Bronze Medal

    Society For News Design
    Edition 40

Follow our graphics team

Enjoying South China Morning Post graphics?

Here are some other digital native projects you might want to visit

Or just visit our graphics home page

Hi, Internet Explorer user!

This site has some features that may not be compatlibe with your browser. Should you wish to view content, switch browsers to either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox to get an awesome experience