By Shruti Ganapatye
They were the only Indians who took part in the gruelling mission that ended yesterday.
As the last four of the ‘Wild Boars’ boys and their coach were rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand on Tuesday, bringing an end to a gruelling and daring 18-day rescue mission to save the 13 who had gone missing on June 23, Prasad Kulkarni from Sangli district in Maharashtra and engineer Shyam Shukla from Pune were among the dozen who erupted in cheers near the site.
The two engineers were the only Indians who helped out with the rescue operation and were part of the seven-member team from pump manufacturing company Kirloskar Brothers Limited, which was roped in by Thailand for the mission. One member each came from the Netherlands and the UK, and the rest from the company’s Thailand office. Kirloskar, which was the only team tasked with de-watering operations, has partnered with the Royal Government of Thailand on some projects in the past.
The team was sent on July 5 to pump out water from the 4-km-long treacherous cave during adverse weather conditions.
“Our work was to remove water from the cave, which has sharp 90° turns. The incessant rainfall posed a huge problem as the water level just couldn’t recede. The generatorbased power supply was erratic. So, we had to use smaller pumps,” said Kulkarni, who is the production designer head at Kirloskar.
He said rescuers faced frustrating challenges. “The cave is in a 20-sqkm hill, which was dark and damp. Its topography is such that even scuba divers could not help at times,” said Kulkarni, who has been working at Kirloskar Wadi in Sangli for the last 25 years.
The only option in such a scenario was to deploy pumps.
Prashant Kulkarni (second from left) and Shyam Shukla (second from right) with the rest of the Kirloskar team at the Thai site
There were also other limitations; big pumps could not be installed. Kulkarni is Shukla, general manager of the department of corporate research and engineering development at Kirloskar, said, “Reaching the boys was a difficult task. The cave is very narrow and is not a plain terrain. But we managed to pump out the water from the cave.”
The Indians’ contribution did not go unacknowledged. Chutintorn Gongsakdi, Thailand’s ambassador to India, tweeted after the mission ended: “While in diplomacy, as in life, following your heart & taking the path of least resistance, is often the preferred choice; the less familiar &the more difficult path, may be the intellectual choice that you have to make in the interest of your country.
Thailand, go for India!“
Thailand Government Thanked India
Bangkok, July 11: The Thailand government has thanked India, citizens of India and Pune-based Kirloskar Brothers’Limited’s (KBL) for the well-wishing for the safety of the tweleve boys and their coach who had been missing in Tham Luang Cave. All the 12 boys and their football coach were rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand on Tuesday after being trapped for 18 days.
The foreign affairs ministry of Thailand wrote a letter to the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and expressed its gratitude for India’s support. “The generosity offered by India’s public and private sector reflected, indeed, the close and cordial ties and friendship between our two countries and people,” the Thai ministry said in the letter.