Thailand is considering turning the cave where a teenage football team has been trapped for a week-and-a-half into a tourist attraction, officials said yesterday.
"Now that the kids have been found, we can relax a little, and we can consider other plans," Narongsak Osotthanakorn, commander of the search and rescue mission and governor of Chiang Rai province where the cave is located, told a press briefing, dpa reported. Narongsak's remark followed a local news report citing a tourism official about the plan.
"After the rescue team found the 12 football players and their coach on Monday night, the cave has become of interest for both local and foreign travelers," Karuna Dechatiwong, tourism governor for Chiang Rai province, told the Bangkok Post. The local tourism office will work with the private sector to work out the exploration route and promote the site once the rescue mission is over, she added.
Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non Cave is Thailand's fourth longest cave, stretching for 10 kilometers and located some 1,000 kilometers north of Bangkok near the border with Myanmar. It is a little known and barely-explored site due to its difficult terrain.
It remains unclear when the group will be brought out of the cave after they were discovered by British divers late Monday. Rescue teams were giving crash courses in swimming and diving as part of complex preparations to extract a young soccer squad trapped in a cave and hoping for a swift end to their harrowing 11-day ordeal.
Divers, medics, counselors and Thai navy SEALS were with the 12 schoolboys and their 25-year-old coach, providing medicines and food, while experts assessed conditions for getting them out safely, a task the government said would not be easy."
"The water is very strong and space is narrow. Extracting the children takes a lot of people," Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters, according to Reuters. "Now we are teaching the children to swim and dive," he said, adding that if water levels fell and the flow weakened, they would be taken out quickly.
By late Tuesday, about 120 million liters of water had been pumped out, or about 1.6 million every hour.