INTERNATIONAL volunteers have made a huge contribution in the operation to save the 13 Thai footballers stranded in a Chiang Rai cave.
A group of British cave experts located them on Monday night, 10 days after they went missing.
The rescue mission has drawn great international support with at least eight nations sending teams to help rescue the 12 boys and their football coach trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave, alongside hundreds of Thais working at the scene since June 23. The international teams sent to assist the operations are all elite cave divers and rescuers.
The UK-based Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation was among the first to lend a helping hand, sending a team of three experts to the scene.
Two of the Britons, John Volanthen and Richard Stanton, were the first to find the trapped footballers in a dry area almost five kilometres from the cave entrance. The BBC reported that they were part of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team and had also taken part in the attempted rescue of a trapped diver in France in 2010.
The third British expert, Robert Harper, has been caving since 1968, the BBC reported. According to reports on the 2010 operation, Stanton is a firefighter from Coventry who was also involved in the rescue of 13 British cavers in Mexico in 2004.
In 2012, both men received a Royal Humane Society medal at Buckingham Palace, in recognition of their rescue attempt in France.
In addition Chinese, Lao, German and Belgian cave rescuers also joined the Thai Navy SEALs in diving in the flooded cave to search for the boys and their football coach.
The six from China have experience in dramatic rescue missions, having saved victims trapped in a cave in Myanmar and Nepal before.
They also brought with them specialist equipment such as aquatic robots, scuba gears, and three-dimension spectrometers to help in the rescue mission.
Thailand’s close neighbour Laos, meanwhile, deployed an award-winning rescue team, “Vientiane 1623”, to help in the operation since June 26. The volunteer group was founded in 2010 and won the prestigious Magsaysay Award in 2016.
The German team members are independent diving experts and are helping in filling the oxygen tanks.
Other international friends have also provided substantial assistance in many other areas of the operation.
Two high-pressure water pumps provided by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have been sent to the site.
JICA said two experts would advise the Irrigation Department on draining water out of the cave to enable rescue teams to reach the interiors of the cave. Thailand has been seeking assistance from Japan to have muddy water divers join the team on the ground, according to an official at the Foreign Ministry.
Other foreign experts working at the cave, including rescue and diving teams from the United States Indo-Pacific Command (PACOM) and United Kingdom, have been at the site since Thursday.
PACOM brought high-technology equipment, including 3D infrared scanners and satellite linked geological survey monitors, to aid the Thai team.
Meanwhile, a security company from Israel sent a team to help search for other entrances to the cave in the past week.