CHIANG RAI: The eight young footballers rescued from a cave in Thailand after more than two weeks underground are unlikely to be able to take up an offer to attend the World Cup final in Moscow, doctors said today.
The plight of the boys has prompted an outpouring of support from across the footballing world, from Brazil legend Ronaldo to England’s John Stones and Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi. The emaciated and disheveled “Wild Boars” were found after nine days of no contact on a small, muddy bank surrounded by water several kilometers inside the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand. All had come from football training when they first went into the cave on June 23 and were wearing football shirts when they were found – one wore an England top, another the colors of Real Madrid.
Images of the desperate group went viral, prompting FIFA boss Gianni Infantino to invite them to the July 15 showpiece in a gesture of solidarity from the footballing world and a dream to most teenage football fans. But doctors poured cold water on the idea, saying the boys are in good shape but going through a slow and careful recovery that will see them stay in hospital for a week. “They can’t go, they have to stay in hospital for a while,” Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, of the public health ministry, told reporters Tuesday when asked about the offer to attend Sunday’s match. “They’re likely to watch it on television,” Jedsada Chokdamrungsuk, permanent-secretary of the Ministry of Public Health.
A piece published earlier: Elite divers hauled four more young footballers out of a flooded Thai cave on Monday, authorities said, bringing to eight the number saved in a stunning rescue mission but still leaving five others trapped. “Hooyah,” the Thai Navy SEALs, who have played a crucial role in the against-the-odds operation, said in a Facebook post as they announced that a total of eight members of the “Wild Boars” football team had been rescued on Sunday and Monday. Thais have been fixated on the crisis, hoping desperately for the safe return of the 12 boys and their 25-year-old football coach, after they ventured into the Tham Luang cave complex after practice and became trapped by rising waters more than a fortnight ago. The extraction of the four on Monday followed a similar pattern to the previous day, with the youngsters emerging in quick succession just before nightfall after navigating a treacherous escape route of more than four kilometers (2.5 miles) that included extremely narrow and flooded tunnels. Although the rescued eight were all presumed to be the boys, aged between 11 and 16, authorities did not reveal their identities nor confirm whether the coach remained inside the cave.
Asked if the remaining five would be shuttled out together, rescue operations chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said it was up to the divers whose meticulous plans, including stashing extra oxygen tanks along the route, are “set for four people, if we bring five we have to change the plan”. In a late-night press conference, he also delivered a message from Thai premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a gruff former general: “The Prime Minister wants this to be a lesson, this should not happen again in Thailand,” Narongsak said. The saga has dominated global headlines, with the team spending nine days unaccounted for inside the cave, before British divers found them – emaciated and disheveled – huddling on a muddy bank above the flooding. Authorities then struggled to determine the best way to save the “Wild Boars”, with the group stuck on a shelf above the floodwaters in pitch darkness. Among the ideas were drilling an escape route through the mountain, or leaving them for months until the monsoon season ended and the flooding subsided.
But with oxygen levels inside dropping to dangerous lows and the prospect of heavy rains flooding the area completely, authorities decided they had to move quickly and take the group out through the water-filled tunnels. Narongsak described Sunday’s initial rescue bid as “D-Day” when it was launched, and there were fears that any one of many potential pitfalls could prove deadly. Among these were that none of the boys had scuba diving experience and that they could easily panic while swimming underwater across twisted passageways in darkness. Dozens of foreign divers and other experts from around the world were brought in to help the rescue effort, working alongside the Thai Navy SEALs. But the death of a former Thai Navy SEAL diver who ran out of oxygen in the cave on Friday underscored the danger of the journey. The first successes on Sunday offered hope of a fairytale ending to the ordeal. Rescue chief Narongsak on Sunday described their journey out, escorted by the elite divers, as “smooth”.
Crucially, round-the-clock pumping to ease some of the floodings paid off and threatened heavy rains did not arrive. That led an upbeat Narongsak to promise more “good news” on Monday afternoon that materialized a few hours later with the emergence of the other four. But although the eight were rescued, there were concerns they may have contracted an illness while in the cave. Narongsak said after the first four boys were rescued that they would be quarantined “for a while because we are concerned about infections”. And rain could still re-emerge as a threat for the remaining five, particularly if there are complications that could delay the extraction further. Authorities have repeatedly said the rain could re-flood crucial parts of the cave complex that have been drained and make the escape route much harder or even impossible to navigate. Weather forecasters warned heavy rain could hit the area through the week. Premier Prayut visited the rescue base on Monday night to deliver his congratulations to all those involved, but also to offer a note of caution. “Everyone should be proud. (But) the mission is not over yet,” Prayut said. (Published on 10rh July 2018)
Record heat broils Japan, prompting warnings
TOKYO: Japanese officials issued new warnings Monday as a deadly heatwave blankets the country, producing record high temperatures in Tokyo just two years before the city hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Officials said last week that the heatwave had killed at least 15 people and forced the hospitalization of over 12,000 others in the first two weeks of July. But the death toll may be more than double that, with Kyodo News agency reporting 11 people died on Saturday alone across Japan. An updated official toll is expected later this week.
The heatwave has toppled temperature records across the country, with Kumagaya in Saitama outside Tokyo setting a new nationwide record on Monday with temperatures hitting 41.1 Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit). And in western Tokyo’s Ome, temperatures hit 40.3 degrees Celsius, the first time temperatures over 40 have been recorded in Tokyo’s metro area.
Records fell at 13 other observation stations across the country, with more than a dozen cities and towns seeing temperatures around 40 degrees, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. “People in areas where temperatures are as high as 35 degrees or higher should be extremely careful” to avoid heatstroke, meteorological agency official Minako Sakurai told AFP. “And even at lower temperatures, the heat can be dangerous for small children and elderly people, and depending on the environment and activities you are doing,” she warned.
“People should be all the more careful as many people must be exhausted after days of cruelly hot weather,” she added. Yoshihide Suga, a top government spokesman, warned that extremely hot days “are expected to continue until early August.” Japan’s disaster management agency has urged people to use air conditioning, drink sufficient water and rest often while at work. The heatwave follows record rainfall that devastated parts of western and central Japan with floods and landslides that killed over 220 people.
Japan’s summers are notoriously hot and humid, and hundreds of people die each year from heatstroke, particularly the elderly in the country’s aging society. But this year’s record temperatures have surprised residents and officials alike and revived concerns about the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be held in July and August in Tokyo. Olympic officials and Tokyo’s local government are touting measures from solar-blocking paint on roads to mobile misting stations to tackle the heat.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike acknowledged Monday that the recent heatwave was “exactly like living in a sauna. For the athletes, they’re trained but for spectators who are cheering on the road, we may not necessarily be able to say the same,” she said at a Monday press conference. “Countermeasures against heat is one of the major pillars for the success of the 2020 Olympics.”
“Never, ever threaten the US”: Trump hits back at Iran ‘war’ talk
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Sunday hit back at bellicose comments by Iran’s president, warning him of dire consequences as the US intensifies its campaign against the Islamic republic.
“NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump said on Twitter in a direct message to President Hassan Rouhani.
Earlier Sunday the Iranian leader had warned Trump not to “play with the lion’s tail,” saying that conflict with Iran would be the “mother of all wars”. The US president, writing his entire message in capital letters, continued his riposte: “WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
His comments Sunday night came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a major address to the Iranian diaspora in California, said Washington is not afraid to sanction top-ranking leaders of the “nightmare” Iranian regime.
Trump in May pulled the US out of a hard-won agreement with Tehran, also signed by Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, which lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. The 2015 agreement was in response to fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb.
European allies maintain their support for the deal and have vowed to stay in it, though their businesses fear US penalties. Following Washington’s pullout Pompeo unveiled Washington’s tougher line under which, he said, the US would lift the new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria.
Rouhani immediately dismissed those US threats and on Sunday said: “You cannot provoke the Iranian people against their own security and interests.” In a televised speech ahead of Pompeo’s address, Rouhani repeated his warning that Iran could shut down the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for international oil supplies.
“Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said.
On Saturday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said US words and “even… their signature” cannot be trusted, “so negotiations with the United States are useless.”
The US in January had already sanctioned Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, for human rights violations, Pompeo noted on Sunday.
“We weren’t afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level,” he said, confirming that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil “as close to zero as possible” by November 4 or face American sanctions.
Pompeo called on “all governments to end their flirtations” with Iran’s regime and said “there’s more to come” in terms of sanctions.
“Regime leaders — especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani — must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” said Pompeo, a longtime Iran hawk. He was referring to Iran’s special forces and Revolutionary Guards.
Roundly applauded by his audience, Pompeo affirmed support by Washington for protesters who have taken to the streets of Iran as economic woes mount after the US withdrawal from the nuclear accord.
“The regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people,” he said. “The United States hears you. The United States supports you. The United States is with you.”
To reinforce that message, Washington’s top diplomat announced an intensified American propaganda campaign, through the launch of a multimedia channel with 24-hour coverage on television, radio, and social media. Pompeo refused to distinguish between moderates and radicals at the heart of the Islamic republic. The Trump administration is regularly suspected of favoring regime change in Iran, and Pompeo said: “our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside Iran and globally.”
Crocodile in Paradise: Thailand hunts reptile in resort town
PHUKET: Thailand is in hot pursuit of a cagey crocodile that has made unwelcome appearances off the beaches of resort island Phuket only to slip through the clutches of local authorities.
The evasive reptile was first seen near Rawai beach about a week ago but has resurfaced in multiple locations near the beaches on the Andaman Sea.
A group of hunters has joined an expanding team trying to track it down. Thawee Thongchai, the mayor of Karon town on the west coast of Phuket, told AFP Monday they had come very close to success.
“We almost caught it when it was seen near the beach in Karon, (we were) meters away but it moved quickly back to the sea,” Thawee said.
“We do not yet know where it comes from.” Thailand’s pristine beaches draw millions of tourists a year and Phuket in the southwest is one of the most popular destinations.
Thawee said choppy monsoon seas had prevented fishing boats from using nets to capture the creature, which is almost two meters in length.
The Siamese crocodile was once ubiquitous across Southeast Asia but is currently listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist, and lecturer at Kasetsart University said the presence of a crocodile in Phuket meant it was likely a hybrid saltwater version of the species bred on a farm, and it was not the first such sighting.
“Normally the open sea is not a place where a crocodile would live,” he said. Crocodile numbers in Thailand and Southeast Asia generally have been decimated by habitat loss, commercial hunting for the skin trade and the capture of live reptiles to stock crocodile farms, according to the IUCN. In Thailand, there are just a handful of wild populations in central and western national parks.
A French tourist was bitten on the leg by a crocodile inside a Thai national park in January last year when she tried to get close to take a selfie.
In 2014 a Thai woman committed suicide by leaping into a pond of crocodiles at a farm popular with tourists on Bangkok’s outskirts.