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Israeli Rescuers Join Effort To Save Boys Trapped in Thai Cave

Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel talk to a Thai rescuer, right, before diving after the 12 boys and their soccer coach were found alive, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Tuesday, July 3, 2018. The 12 boys and soccer coach found after 10 days are …
AP/Sakchai Lalit

TEL AVIV – Israeli rescuers have volunteered in the effort to save 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand in an ordeal that is into its tenth day.  

The boys are aged 11 to 16 and went to visit the Tham Luang Nang Non cave together with their coach after a soccer match in the northern province of Chiang Rai. On Tuesday, the Thai army said it was unlikely that the team would be rescued any time soon, since the floodwaters may take months to recede. In the meantime, the group will be taught to dive and are receiving enough food and aid to last four months.

Yuval Zalmanov, an employee for Israeli emergency communication device manufacturer Maxtech Networks, flew out last Monday to join the rescue effort.

“The water is rising and reaching insane heights,” Zalmanov was quoted as saying. “They don’t know when a wave will come or from what direction. They tried to cross to the place where the kids are and failed.”

Asaf Zmirly, who lives in Thailand and owns a rescue company, contacted Maxtech Networks CEO Uzi Hanuni on Monday.

“Without much hesitation, I took the crew, said there was an incident and that someone needs to go to Thailand,” Hanuni said. “I got the license to take the communications devices out of Israel, and one of the employees volunteered to fly with them that same day. On the next day he arrived at the scene, sat down with Asaf and they began the rescue.”

Hanuni said his company wasn’t receiving remuneration for the rescue efforts. “We haven’t taken a single shekel for this. It is to save children,” he said, but noted that Israeli airline El Al had agreed to cover Zalmanov’s flight ticket.

Since the boys cannot swim, the best course of action is to wait until the waters recede.

“[We will] prepare to send additional food to be sustained for at least four months and train all 13 to dive while continuing to drain the water,” Navy Captain Anand Surawan said, according to a statement from Thailand’s Armed Forces Tuesday.

“The best option is to leave them where they are and stabilize their environment,” said Peter Wolf, the national director of the Cave Divers Association of Australia, told the Guardian.

Governor of Chiang Rai province Narongsak Osatanakorn said that all 13 were given an “informal” medical assessment inside the cave and none are in critical condition.

“The doctor advised that we should provide several kinds of medicine to prevent infection and other illness,” Osatanakorn said.

On Monday Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked teams of international rescuers.

The prime minister “wishes to thank the tremendous efforts of all international units that have come to assist the Thai authorities in rescuing the youth football team that was stuck in the caves in Chiang Rai,” his office said in a statement. “The Royal Thai Government and the Thai people are grateful for this support and cooperation, and we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery.”


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