A Malta-based scuba instructor is amongst an elite group of international divers who have been tasked with the dramatic rescue of 12 boys and their football coach from a cave in northern Thailand.
Finnish diver Mikko Paasi runs the Koh Tao Divers Malta dive centre in St Paul’s Bay along with his wife Krista and other divers. The centre opened up in 2016 as a branch of a longstanding dive centre based on the Thai island of Koh Tao, renowned as a hotspot for divers.
Mikko flew to Chiang Rai last week, on his wedding anniversary, to join a small group of international divers in the rescue of the Thai boys and their coach, who have been trapped in the Tham Luang cave since 23rd June.
“Today, on our 8th wedding anniversary, instead of booking a romantic dinner table for us, I booked flight tickets for my love to Chiang Rai,” Krista posted on Facebook. “Even if it takes travelling to another continent, you are always ready to help others in need. Even though I’m scared, I admire your courage in joining such a demanding operation and always following your heat. You do your thing, just promise me to get safely back home soon. Happy anniversary my superhero! Go and get the boys back home!”
The rescue mission started yesterday, with divers successfully guiding four boys through darkness and submerged passageways to the mouth of the cave in an eight-hour operation. The mission was paused overnight for air tanks to be replaced, but has resumed this morning.
It is an extremely high-risk mission, as evidenced by how a Thai navy SEAL diver died on Friday when he delivered air tanks to the boys and their coach but ran out of oxygen for himself on his way back out.
Mikko Paasa exploring the Um El Faroud shipwreck in Malta. Photo: Mikko Paasa | KTD Malta
Mikko Paasi told the Thai press that the SEAL’s death has changed the mood on the ground and made rescuers aware of just how dangerous the mission is.
“Definitely, you can feel it that it has an effect, but we’re moving on,” he was quoted as saying by CNN. “Everyone is a professional so we’re trying to put it away and avoid it happening again. Everybody is focusing on getting these boys out – keeping them alive and getting them out.”