British cave expert to apply Thai lessons in Vietnam

By Vy An   July 8, 2018 | 09:47 pm PT
British cave expert to apply Thai lessons in Vietnam
Travelers swim in a cave in central Vietnam's Quang Binh Province. Photo by Ryan Deboodt
Ongoing rescue operation at a flooded cave provides valuable insights for Vietnam, home to world's largest cave.

British cave expert Howard Limbert visited Thailand with his Vietnamese colleagues last week to study the ongoing rescue operation of a boys’ soccer team that has captured world headlines.

The 12-member Thai team and its coach have been trapped in the Tham Luang Cave in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai since June 23, when a downpour flooded it.

Limbert, who has helped explore, highlight and preserve the world’s largest cave in Vietnam Son Doong, said he plans to apply the knowledge he learns from the ongoing rescue operation to reassess emergency procedures for tour agency Oxalis Adventure. He is the technical safety consultant for Oxalis, the agency that manages tours to Son Doong and other caves in Quang Binh Province in central Vietnam.

Limbert noted that the large-scale rescue operation in Thailand required several specialized units, which are highly experienced in rescue operations in caves, to cooperate with each other. For example, while the military conducted searches on land, the Navy dived underwater to search for the missing soccer team.

“Thailand has also sent in topnotch divers from all around the world to find the kids. Without these divers, the kids might never have been found in time,” he said.

Asked whether caves in Vietnam’s Quang Binh could be flooded in a similar fashion, Limbert said flooding was rare between January and August, which is the time when tours are conducted. 

“Besides, these caves have many entrances, so even if a flood happens, the water can always be drained through these entrances, preventing too high a water level,” he said.

He also said the tour agency has already prepared additional paths and bridges in case flooding occurs.

“We will not arrange tours during the rainy season, which is between September and November,” he added.

On whether specialized rescue teams for caves should be formed in Vietnam, Limbert said that “would certainly be a great idea.

“However, tour agencies always need to follow safety guidelines and prepare necessary equipment, regardless of there being a rescue team or not.”

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