The daring cave rescue captivating the world

Heroes: The sacrifice of the rescuers has been praised around the world. © Getty

How should we react to the news? Eight boys have been freed from the Tham Luang caves in Thailand thanks to a brave rescue mission. However, they still face a long road to recovery.

“Teachers, please don’t give too much homework.” This was a request from the group of Thai footballers, written in a letter to their parents from the depths of the Tham Luang cave system as they awaited rescue. These little signs of normality and resilience from the boys, some as young as 11, have captivated the world.

Eight of the 12, who became trapped on June 23 when monsoon rains flooded the caves, are now free thanks to a high-risk rescue mission. The last four had to wait with their coach for another night, but officials are optimistic about retrieving them today amid favourable weather forecasts.

The rescue effort has required extensive international cooperation. Divers from the UK, the US, China and more have spent days ferrying oxygen and supplies into the tunnels in a perilous 11-hour round trip, training the inexperienced swimmers, and, finally, guiding the boys out.

The world’s media have watched every movement. Hundreds of camera crews have gathered around the site, beaming footage across the globe. But authorities warn the coverage is going too far. Reporters have disrupted rescue efforts with drones and illicitly accessed police radios as they rush to satisfy the public’s appetite for updates in a world of 24-hour news.

But the danger remains, as starkly highlighted by the death of former Thai Navy diver Saman Gunan on Thursday, who lost consciousness in one of the passageways when his oxygen ran out.

Even if all the boys emerge safely, their ordeal may be far from over. Experts say traumatised children “have a high risk of medium to long-term mood disorders” and the boys face months of rehabilitation to regain their strength. The 33 Chilean miners who were rescued in 2010 after 69 days underground struggled to deal with the fame that awaited them.

Others believe the boys’ youth and camaraderie could protect them psychologically. “When you’re young, you feel invincible and they’d see it as a bit of an adventure,” said diver Martin Grass. It is also thought that their coach, who trained as a Buddhist monk, taught them meditation to help them stay calm.

How should we react to the news?

Great Escape

We should celebrate it, say some. The whole world has been inspired and united by the resilience of these boys and the selflessness of their rescuers. Through human ingenuity, 12 boys who faced death can now look forward to rich lives.

It’s more complicated than that, warn others. Even if the boys make a full physical recovery, they have been through an awful event that could leave them psychologically scarred. The public interest in the case is understandable, but the media circus may make it harder for the boys to adjust to their old lives.

You Decide

  1. Should people avoid cave climbing and other extreme sports?
  2. What would you want to do most after being freed from the cave?

Activities

  1. Research different methods of meditation, and see if you can try to meditate for one minute. Do you feel calmer?
  2. Write a 500 word news report explaining how the boys got stuck in the cave, what happened there and how they are being brought out. Include quotes from the rescuers and other witnesses.

Some People Say...

“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.”

Winston Churchill

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Twelve boys, aged 11 to 16, and their football coach became trapped in the Tham Luang caves in Thailand on June 23 after the caves flooded. Eight of the boys are free after being led out of the four-kilometer cave system by divers. They are now in quarantine in hospital. An attempt to rescue the remaining boys will be made today. Each boy is being led out by two divers, who help to keep them calm as they swim out.
What do we not know?
Whether rain could hamper efforts to rescue the remaining boys. Rescuers have been pumping water out of the caves and forecasts are promising, but monsoon weather is unpredictable and a downpour could delay their rescue. We also do not know how the boys will recover physically and psychologically from their ordeal.

Word Watch

In a letter
Before the rescue mission began, the boys were able to exchange letters with their parents. Several of them asked for their favourite meal to be made upon their return home.
Divers from the UK
The boys and their 25-year-old coach were discovered by two British divers nine days after they went missing. More than 1,000 people were involved in the search.
Illicitly
In a manner that is not lawful or moral.
Mood disorders
The boys will have a raised risk of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks and nightmares.
33 Chilean miners
The miners became trapped in a San José copper-gold mine when a rock the size of a skyscraper dislodged and destroyed their tunnels. Rescuers were eventually able to drill through to the trapped men and bring them out through a mechanical chute.
Buddhist monk
Many Thai men undergo Buddhist training in their youth. Meditation can help a person to deal with negative thoughts and emotions.

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