Thai cave rescue: A look back at five underground rescues that captivated the world
The plight of 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped deep inside a Thai cave captivated the world’s attention. (News Video)
For weeks the world has watched with bated breath as the plight of a soccer team, trapped underground by flooding, has played out 4 kilometres deep inside a Thailand cave.
The 12 boys aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach, were discovered by Navy SEAL divers and expert volunteers nine days after they became trapped inside by monsoon flooding.
The rescue efforts that followed captured the world’s attention as media across the globe announced the successful rescue of the first four boys who emerged from the deadly labyrinth on Sunday night.
All 13 have now been rescued amid cheers and tears, calling to mind previous rescues that captivated the world.
1987: Toddler Jessica McClure is rescued from a well
President George H W Bush holds Jessica McClure during a visit to the White House in 1989. (National Archives and Record Administration: Susan Biddle)
Eighteen-month-old Jessica McClure was trapped for more than two days after falling into an old well in Texas.
Hundreds of workers from surrounding oil fields worked to dig and drill in a delicate mission to reach the toddler without causing the well to collapse or the child to slip further into the hole.
She spent about 58 hours stranded almost seven metres under the ground in her aunt’s backyard.
Jessica had to have a toe amputated due to circulation loss — with one leg pinned above her head while in the well — and has had 15 surgeries over the years.
The case gained worldwide attention and was the basis for a television movie on American ABC called Everybody’s Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure.
Ms McClure, still known locally as ‘baby Jessica’, is now a mother of two and works as a teacher’s aid.
1997: Stuart Diver is the sole survivor of a Thredbo landslide
It was described as sounding like an approaching freight train when 1,000 tonnes of liquid mud came crashing down on a ski resort where 19 people slept.
Just before midnight, the ground gave way and the mud thundered down the steep slopes of the Thredbo ski resort in New South Wales, destroying two lodges.
Nineteen people were trapped under a mess of soil, debris, and heavy concrete slabs, but only one survived.
Witnesses said the chilling sound of voices had been heard calling for help from under the rubble within the first few hours, followed by silence.
The instability of the area hampered the enormous rescue operation, with emergency workers having to operate on a very steep slope, taking care not to cause any further landslides.
After 66 hours, rescue workers had given up hope of finding anyone alive, but incredibly, ski instructor Stuart Diver was pulled from the rubble alive after being trapped under three concrete slabs next to the body of his wife.
It was Australia’s worst landslide disaster.
2003: Aron Ralston is trapped in a canyon for 127 hours
While climbing alone through a canyon in Utah, Aron Ralston, 27, was pinned down by a falling boulder that crashed his arm.
After more than five days battling exposure, hunger, and thirst and with no hope of rescue, Mr Ralston decided the only way to survive was to rescue himself.
With a makeshift bandage and tourniquet, he then crawled along the 45-metre canyon, rappelled one-armed down the rock face and walked about 8 kilometres before he found help.
Utah rescue helicopter pilot, Terry Mercer, said at the time if Mr Ralston had not made the decision to cut off his own arm, he would never have survived.
The book he wrote about his ordeal, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, became the plot for the Hollywood blockbuster 127 Hours in 2011.
2010: 33 miners survive a mine collapse in Chile
Thirty-three miners were trapped about 700 metres underground for 69 days after a copper-gold mine in northern Chile caved in.
Mario Sepulveda celebrates after reaching the surface at the San Jose mine. (Reuters: Hugo Infante)
The miners, who had given up hope of ever being rescued, were eventually all hoisted out one after the other in a mini-capsule, as the world followed every update of the dramatic operation that unfolded on live television.
Other than one man who was being treated for pneumonia and some needing dental treatment, most came out surprisingly healthy and didn’t suffer any serious health problems.
Experts warned of possible long-term emotional damage, the recovery from which could be complicated by the public attention.
Five years later, Hollywood released the movie The 33 which was based on the famous ordeal.
During the recent ordeal of the Thai soccer team, a charismatic miner — nicknamed “Super Mario” for encouraging his fellow miners throughout their ordeal — sent his greetings and “a lot of strength” to the families of the boys.
2014: Speleologist recued from cave in Germany
Dramatic scenes as German cave researcher Johann Westhauser rescued after 2 weeks underground
In one of the largest cave rescues recorded, 728 people took 12 days to the rescue Johann Westhauser, a 52-year-old speleologist.
The explorer was trapped in Germany’s deepest cave system after he was caught in a rockfall and unable to climb back out due to his injuries.
Mr Westhauser was one of the researchers who discovered the Riesending cave system, nicknamed “massive thing”.
It is 1,148 metres deep and has tunnels, shafts and caves extending over 19.2 kilometres.
A multi-national team of hundreds of emergency personnel battled around the clock in a complex and costly operation to rescue Mr Westhauser who suffered from head and chest injuries.
His rescuers used a fibreglass stretcher to carry him through the treacherous network of tunnels, chambers, underground lakes and ice-cold waterfalls.
Dramatic photos were posted worldwide as Mr Westhauser was hoisted out of the cave and loaded into a helicopter on the mountainside.