Farmers play their part in rescue bid

Mr Lek Lapdaungpoin and his wife Koung at their farm flooded by water pumped from Tham Luang cave.
Mr Lek Lapdaungpoin and his wife Koung at their farm flooded by water pumped from Tham Luang cave.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MAE SAI (Thailand) • His fields are submerged and his ducks nearly wiped out by water being frantically pumped from Tham Luang cave, but Thai farmer Lek Lapdaungpoin is delighted to help the rescue bid.

Standing near his ruined land, he says he is proud of his small but significant contribution to battling the rescue operation's main enemy - water. "With the farming, we can make money again. But 13 lives are not something we can create," he said, estimating that five districts and hundreds of hectares have been damaged in the lowlands around the cave complex.

The excess water has been funnelled onto nearby fields, as well as streams and hastily dug underground wells.

Nearly 20ha of Mr Lek's land has been inundated and he says 100 free-ranging ducks have perished or gone missing since their food source in the fields was flooded. "But we don't think about the damage," his wife Koung said.

Mountainside creeks have also been diverted in the hope of limiting water run-off into the cave where the boys have been trapped since June 23.

A break in rainfall has brought water levels down, but not enough for easy passage between a key chamber separating rescuers from the muddy embankment where the 12 boys and their assistant coach are taking shelter.

"There is so much (water)," said Mr Shigeki Miyake, of the Japan International Cooperation Agency in Thailand, who is assisting with draining works. "No-one can calculate it."

Some well-meaning efforts have also backfired.

Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said some unregistered volunteers accidentally pumped water back in the direction of the cave.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2018, with the headline 'Farmers play their part in rescue bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe