There’s an international focus on soccer now — not only the World Cup but on the youth soccer team and their coach marooned inside a deep mountain cave in Thailand.
Aged 11 to 16, the boys and their coach of the Wild Boars soccer team went exploring a cave June 23 and wound up trapped by flood waters.
Now the world is transfixed, first by the miraculous discovery nine days later that all 12 boys and the coach are alive and then by the effort now underway to bring them home. The danger of the mission was made clear Friday when Sgt. Saman Kunan, a former Thai navy SEAL, died while delivering oxygen tanks.
People trapped underground have been brought to safety before. Nine coal miners in Somerset County, Pa., were rescued in 2002 when mining engineers figured out how to drop a narrow elevator shaft 240 feet deep directly to where the men were and then bring them out one by one.
The challenge facing the international team in Thailand is different and possibly worse. The boys are said to be about a half-mile deep, which is much deeper than were the Quecreek Mine workers, who accidentally broke through a wall into a water-filled mine and had to scramble to higher ground. Rescue plans are focused on bringing them out through the cave passages, a journey made extremely perilous by submerged routes and by the boys’ inexperience with swimming and diving.
An Australian think tank, the Lowy Institute, noted the international flavor of the rescue operation. It includes Australian police offices, radio technology from Israel, and experts from China, the United States and Japan and neighboring countries Myanmar and Laos. Offering special expertise are British cave divers, said to be the best in the world — and they’ve done it before.
The international cooperation builds upon previous cooperative responses, such as the 2010 mine disaster in Chile. There, 33 miners were saved after 69 days underground.
International rescues are becoming the new paradigm for global relations. Would that everything that happens in the world could be with such unselfish and hopeful working together, in which rivals — even enemies — set aside their differences to make good things happen.
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