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Diver from Ciudad Real helps in Thai cave rescue
A DIVER from the central Spanish province of Ciudad Real is in Thailand helping rescue the children trapped in a cave with their football instructor.
Fernando Raigal, 33, currently works as a professional scuba-diver for petroleum companies, is highly-skilled and experienced, and has lived in Thailand for many years, according to his friend Antonio Molina.
Molina, who still lives in Ciudad Real, says Raigal was invited by the Navy Seal to help rescue the schoolboys, who vanished along with their coach 11 days ago but were, miraculously, found alive.
The 12 children are in such a hard-to-reach place that their only way out has been to learn to scuba-dive.
At the time of publication, eight of them had been successfully rescued, and another four plus their instructor are still waiting to get out.
Fernando Raigal told his friend Antonio that fatigue was taking its toll on the rescue divers – one of whom has died – but that the operation is otherwise going 'better than could have been expected'.
Raigal himself was planning to take a day off on Monday so he could return to the cave the following day with renewed energy.
For Raigal, who has military training and was known to the Navy Seal for his experience and talent, being part of the team makes him feel 'very proud', especially knowing that someone from Spain has been playing a part in getting the children and their trainer out of the cave alive.
The evacuation from the flooded Tham Huang Nang Non cave, in the northern province of Chiang Rai – one of the 'staple' parts of the country's tourist trail – started on Sunday, July 8, more than two weeks after the group disappeared.
The school football team was caught unawares by a sudden tropical storm whilst out on a bike ride on June 23, and their abandoned cycles alerted authorities to their whereabouts.
Divers from the Thai Navy started the search on June 24, finding footprints of the boys and their coach the following day, and arranged to start pumping out water – an operation that involved around 1,000 soldiers.
Four days after the group disappeared, a team of expert British divers joined the international contingent, along with others from the USA, Australia, China, Japan, Israel, Finland and Denmark.
High tides and currents proved to be a major obstacle as the team searched the four-kilometre-long cave and staged simulation evacuations in case the boys and their tutor were, indeed, still alive.
Two of the British divers found the group alive on July 2, four kilometres underground and 400 metres into the cave from the island known as the 'Pattaya Beach'.
Food, medication and other supplies were passed to them by a team of 10 members of the Armed Forces, who include a doctor and a psychologist.
The boys and their coach started an intensive scuba-diving course on July 4 when rescuers realised this was going to be their only way out.
A major blow to the rescue workers came on Friday (July 6) when one of the Thai Marines lost his life in the operation.
The day before the first of the children left the cave, the boys wrote letters home to their parents, in which they all said they were 'fine', 'just a bit cold, that's all', and 'not to worry' about them.
Four of the children were rescued on the first day and taken by air ambulance to Chiang Rai hospital.
Day two (Monday) of the operation has seen another four kids dive to safety and taken to hospital, and it is hoped that the next few days will see them all safe, home and dry.
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