Rescue teams were today searching for a Buddhist monk believed to be trapped in a cave – in echoes of the ‘Wild Boars’ young footballers.
Phra Manut, 46, was last seen on April 2 by locals who took food to him in a cave where he was meditating in Phitsanulok province, central Thailand.
However, fellow monks from the temple started to become concerned and called the emergency services when heavy rain hit the area and water flowed down the mountain on Sunday (April 4).
Thirty volunteer rescuers rushed to the cave while four divers went inside. Another team monitored the water level but it it proved too difficult to get deep inside the area.
Rescue chief Vitaya Muangsuk said: ‘The cave entrance is a 400-metre long gooseneck shape with 12-metre width accompanied with a four-metre deep basin. The team had to pass this area in order to reach the monk, who was believed to be 600 metres away.
‘The current in the cave was very strong and we couldn’t dive too deep while the water level kept rising. We had to withdraw and start a new plan.
‘The next step was to drain water and prepare electricity for pumps, lights and communication devices to help the rescue mission.’
Phra Manut, also known as Ajarn Nut, had been using the Phra Sai Ngam cave as a location to meditate for his annual religious pilgrimage for the last few years. However, he did not realise that rainstorms had been forecast this month.
He is believed to have been trapped and unable to leave the cave after water rose inside. The rescue operation was also paused each time rain, which has been battering Thailand in recent days, started again.
District chief Paramet Saengsawang said: ‘An oxygen tank was not enough to get to the other side of the cave, as the divers had to go against the current, taking more time than usual.
‘The first team that went in to survey the area said that the water was very dark and getting higher while the current was getting stronger.’
The cave is a two-kilometre long tunnel. It has two entrances, one that was under the water and another was a hole that people need to climb up to get out. Locals said that routes inside the cave were like a maze which would be very hard for Phra Manut to find the way out and there was a monk who died inside two years ago.
The incident has echoes of the ‘Wild Boars’ football team – 12 boys and their coach – who were trapped in Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province for 17 days from June 23 to July 10, 2018.
They were later fitted out in full-face breathing masks and sedated before being pulled to safety. Former Thai Navy Seal Officer Saman Kunan lost his life during the rescue operation.