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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 July 2018

Global support for Thai boys is inspiring

But the threat of heavy rains looms, their safe return is far from assured

National Park Rescue climbers at their base camp in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Lauren DeCicca / Getty
National Park Rescue climbers at their base camp in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Lauren DeCicca / Getty

In August 2010, 33 Chilean miners heard the roar of an explosion above them. When the dust settled, their worst fears were realised. It would be 69 days until they were liberated from the mine, with a global spotlight trained on them.

Eight years later, the miners have come forward with messages of support and encouragement for the 12 Thai footballers and their coach, trapped in a cave since June 23.

The messages reflect a global groundswell of support for the youngsters. Indeed, the rescue effort has been international from the start. The boys were found initially by two divers from the British Cave Rescue Council. American businessman Elon Musk – whose Boring Co firm digs tunnels for transport systems – has sent engineers to assist. Fifa has invited the boys to attend the World Cup final, while Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo voiced his personal support.

Overall, it is estimated that 1,000 people from various countries are involved in the rescue effort led by Thai navy Seals – and many more have volunteered to help. The global rush to assist the boys is certainly inspiring.

So too is the resilience of the boys themselves, who are said to be in high spirits. They have written notes for their worried families, including one boy, who was celebrating his 16th birthday when they entered the cave. “I love you, Dad, Mum and my sister. You don’t need to be worried about me,” he wrote.

But while constant drainage is said to have improved conditions for an evacuation, their safe return is far from assured. Heavy rains are expected on Friday, while rising carbon dioxide levels are a further threat. Diving out – through a series of twisting passageways underwater with poor visibility – is difficult for even the most experienced of divers. Indeed, a former Thai navy Seal diver on Friday died trying.

We should continue to hope for their return, but with an awareness that for all the global support, the rescue mission – more necessary by the day – could be the biggest tragedy yet.