When the mission of rescuing 12 boys, members of a local soccer team and their coach who had been battling for life in pitch darkness for 18-long days, after being trapped inside a cave located in the Doi Nang Non mountains in Chiang Rai forest area in northern Thailand near the Myanmar border has ended successfully, it showers boundless relief, hope and optimism before the human conscience – otherwise numbed by hearing only tales of violence, bloodshed and savagery.
The entire world has been literally celebrating this memorable and historic incident. Children of ages 11 to 16 who reached the valley to practice soccer on June 23, went after their practice to explore a nearby cave system that stretched up to nearly 4 kilometres. It was the unexpected rains that culminated as a major threat even to their lives in the form of frightening darkness and flood. When the mud flooded and blocked the entrance of the cave, the only refuge for the young soccer players who forged ahead in search of safety, was a dry ledge. It was a message to a mother who was worried about her missing son that gave the first hint about the children being stranded in the cave.
In the search that followed, the children’s bags, lunchboxes and bicycles were found outside the cave and it was confirmed that they were trapped inside. The investigation and rescue operations which began after that, took 10 days to give a ray of hope. The 300-member rescue team led by Navy SEALs, the diving specialists of the Thai Navy, also consisted of experts from countries such as US, China, Russia, Britain, Australia, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Ukraine and Israel. While their expert and diligent rescue operations progressed, the tragic news of the death of a 38-year old diving expert Saman Kunan on his way back to the surface after placing air tanks along the route to the children pained the world. This diminished the hopes for the success of the life-saving mission to an extent. But, the entire humanity today is praising the almighty for the success of this rescue mission that saved the lives of all the children.
When this historic operation ended successfully, what commands the first and foremost appreciation of the world is the morale of the children who endured hunger and hardships beyond imagination even without sufficient supply of oxygen. It was their coach Ekkapol Chantawong who lent them courage and boosted their morale. The 25-year old who constantly boosted the confidence and hope of the children, completely ignoring the truth that his own life was in danger, is a living example of extraordinary determination. It is certain that he would not have led the children into the cave if he had even the slightest concern about the unexpected rains. But when his calculations misfired due to the heavy rains, he rose to the occasion, unwavering and without being nonplussed. The example of the coach who led the children in darkness through the muddy water towards safety must be chronicled in golden words.
Another great aspect of the incident that ended happily, and to be highlighted is the compassion of the experts and volunteers from different countries who rushed for the rescue operation putting aside all the enmity, malice and prejudices, as soon as they received the news of a life-or-death crisis involving a dozen innocent children. The fact that empathy and compassion has not totally eluded humanity that came out clearly in the case of the Thai children - though such tender sentiments were not visible in the case of lakhs of hapless human beings including women and children, who during their highly adventurous journey seeking refuge, drowned in the sea or when the survivors among them entered the borders.
What gives gratification to entire mankind is the successful application of, and proficiency in employing the state-of-the art scientific and technical tools to provide everything necessary to save the adolescent lives and to bring them back to the sunlight – that too when they were cut off from the outside world in every respect for 18 full days, and were in a real race against time. The chronology of the stage by stage rescue operation vouches for the fact that the novel inventions of science and technology can be used for constructive purposes as well - albeit for a change - as they are used for destruction. One would wish if such collective effort, co-ordination and good will were used for solving the vital problems of humanity.
"We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave," was the reaction of the Thai naval force to the successful mission. In summary, what has happened was that when love for humanity and science woke up and worked together, divine help came in inevitably.