The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service has been put on standby.
Croatian rescuers are ready to go to Thailand to help rescue children and their football coach who have been trapped by rising waters at the Tham Luang cave complex. The Croatian team has been put on standby, reports 24sata.hr on July 5, 2018.
This information has been confirmed by Vinko Prizmić, the head of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS). The European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) has informed them to be ready for the possible operation. The final step would be an invitation from the Thai authorities.
The British team, which first came to the boys, is also well-trained for such action. They have managed to find them alive, but they are not yet close to the end of the rescue operation, said an experienced speleologist and HGSS member Darko Bakšić. In 2014, together with his colleague Petra Kovač Konrad, who is likely to go to Thailand now, he participated in an international rescue operation of a German national who was trapped in the longest and deepest German pit Riesending-Schachthöhle.
He has been monitoring the operation in Thailand since the first day and says the boys survived because of the favourable conditions in the cave. “There is a constant temperature of about 20 degrees Celsius, and that made it possible for them to stay inside for so long. They found enough space and enough air to wait for the help to arrive. In Croatia, such incident would probably be fatal because of very low temperatures in our caves, on average between five and eight degrees. Without equipment and food, they would probably die,” explained Bakšić. He noted that rescuers still do not know how to pull them out due to high water levels, but also because of new monsoon rains that will replenish water reserves in the cave system.
“They know exactly where they are, they are bringing them food, clothing and medical help. There is also the possibility of them staying longer there. It would be hard mentally, but it is feasible,” said Bakšić. This is one of the possible scenarios because the pumping out of water is proceeding too slowly. The boys are deep in the cave, they cannot dive and the water streams in the cave are extremely strong and demanding even for best divers.
“There is a rule that no one should dive in such conditions. There are similar pits in Croatia, for example, the Pazin Pit. When the water streams in it are active, people do not enter it because it is too dangerous,” said Konrad Kovač.
Bakšić has visited similar cave systems in Madagascar and Cuba. Croatian speleologists have explored caves in Malaysia and Borneo as well, where Siniša Jembrih, the current commander of the Zagreb Fire Brigade, led a speleological expedition. “For speleologists, it is common to spend long periods underground, but it would be a shock for the children. We entered the caves of Southeast Asia with equipment and warmly dressed as if we were going to Croatian caves. We avoided the water, but it was suitable for swimming. In Croatia, they would certainly have already died of cold,” said Jembrih.
The only similar rescue operation took place in 2001 when eight Swiss students got trapped in a submerged cave at the border between Switzerland and France. It took 40 hours for more than 300 rescuers to reach them. They had to drill holes and pump out the water to save them.
Translated from 24sata (reported by Bogdan Blotnej).