A 46-year-old monk who entered a deep series of caves in Phitsanulok, Thailand for meditation has become trapped according to local rescue officials after heavy rains flooded the caverns, bringing some to remember similar stories of a team of young football players trapped several years ago in a different cave system in Thailand.
The cave, called Tham Phra Sai Ngam, is located in Phitsanulok in lower Northern Thailand, in the Noen Maprang district within the Thung Salaeng National Park, and is an extremely deep and expansive cave according to both charts and materials found online and statements made by local rescue workers and residents.
This chart, made by a caving expedition in 2018, shows the size of the cave.
The monk, Phra Ajarn Manat, 46, entered the cave for meditation around April 3rd according to both residents near the cavern and his fellow monks at a nearby temple. After he had gone deep into the cave for meditation heavy rains took place over the next several days, trapping the monk in the cave system. At this point, rescue workers believe he is alive and claims they have heard prayer and signs of life but are unable to reach the monk due to weather and deep flooding in the caverns.
The monk is believed to have been trapped in the caves for roughly four days now, with access to water but not food.
More than 30 rescue workers from the Prasat Boon Sathan Foundation along with other relevant agencies have been working in the cave system all day to attempt to reach and recover the trapped monk.
The Foundation has been providing regular updates on their rescue attempts for the monk, which has begun to draw national attention, on their Facebook here. As the cavern is flooded, the rescue will require divers and diving equipment, thus many remembering the similar situation with a group of trapped football players in 2018.
Phra Ajarn Manat reportedly regularly visits the caves for meditation and is well known by nearby villagers who bring alms and merit to the monk during his multi-day meditation trips. It was these local villagers who reported to rescue workers the high floodwaters and stated that they believed the well-known local monk had become trapped after heavy rains. This prompted the rescue efforts that began in earnest today. Monks from nearby temples have also been spotted at the cave entrance throughout the day, praying for the safety of Phra Ajarn Manat.
The flooded area of the cavern is located about 400 meters inside in a narrow passage that is now completely flooded, according to rescue workers, and only accessible with diving equipment.
As of 6:00 P.M. tonight, local authorities suspended the search for the night due to weather and darkness and plan to resume tomorrow morning at 8:00 A.M. They are also working with experienced cave divers and have reportedly contacted a cave rescue specialist and people familiar with this particular cave system. Weather conditions remain rainy, causing the risk of additional flooding in the caverns currently, however, rescue workers familiar with the cave state that they are quite confident the monk is alive as the section behind the flooded passage area is high ground and doesn’t flood.
TPN Media will give updates on this story tomorrow morning and as they come in.
Update: The monk was found safe and alive past the flooded area by divers this morning. He has a slight fever but is healthy. Rescue workers are evaluating how to get him out of the cave safely.
Update 2: As of 11:30 AM the monk has been safely removed from the cave!
All photos courtesy Prasat Boon Sathan Foundation.