The Reader: Cave rescuers play a vital role as an extra emergency service

Practised: British cave divers like John Volanthen honed their skills in flooded UK caves (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images): Getty Images

We ALL breathed a collective sigh of relief when the rescue of the boys’ football team and their coach in Thailand was brought to a successful conclusion, though regrettably with the death of one of the Thai divers. The British divers and their support team who went to Thailand, some 10 personnel in total, played a pivotal role in the initial discovery and subsequent rescue effort of the team.

Caving in the UK is a relatively minority pastime but it has a dedicated following, driven by the variety of caves around the country that can be explored. Cave diving is a niche domain of the mainstream UK caving fraternity and exists because some of the main cave systems are permanently flooded: diving is the only means of exploring them. Cave divers in the UK have, over the years, pushed the boundaries of exploration at home and abroad, developing specialist equipment and techniques. A core of internationally recognised expertise has developed in the UK.

Since cave rescue expertise does not exist in the emergency services, regional cave rescue teams have been established, comprising members from local clubs. They are “on call” around the clock, and though they are one of the lesser known 999 services, they have showed how important a role they can play when called upon.
Tony Haigh
British Cave Rescue Council

EDITOR'S REPLY

Dear Tony

The subterranean ordeal of the Thai boys and their coach was one of those rare events which united the world in fascination and concern; frankly, it was difficult for claustrophobes everywhere even to read about the narrow twisting flooded tunnel with its choke point that was their only exit to the outside world. But ultimately it was a happy story, except for the tragic death of one Thai recue diver, thanks to the divers from Thailand and abroad who helped the boys to safety.

The British divers deserve to be honoured. Their efforts were in stark contrast to the approach of Tesla tycoon Elon Musk — which may account for his Twitter rant at one of them who dared suggest the mini-submarine Musk offered to help the rescue was not up to the task.

Thank you for reminding us that the divers’ expertise is shared among other caving experts; it’s reassuring to know they are part of our emergency services — please God, none of us will have to call on them.

Melanie McDonagh, Senior Writer

Sadly, Love Island is all about the ratings, not representation

I wholly agree with your columnist Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s view that representation does matter, especially for women of colour who are perpetually never cast as “hot” [“I’m all too familiar with how Love Island’s Samira feels: so many black girls just get left on the bench,” July 13] . However, the producers of Love Island are trying to get ratings and were always going to stick to a tried and tested formula. Black women such as actress Issa Rae are changing the way we view black “desirability” and I urge young black women to watch their work instead.
Lillian Uche-Farrow

I read Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s piece with a heavy heart. So according to OK Cupid’s polls, black girls are the least desirable. But to whom? When I conducted a poll, actress Lupita Nyong’o came top.
Dr Stella Maduh

Brexiteers are so misunderstood

While agreeing with the thrust of his article, Matt d’Ancona is wrong with his three reasons why Leave won [“Time’s up on the dream of Brexit — Tories need to quickly grasp reality,” July 11]. My friends and I voted to regain control and sovereignty. To have media types telling us we expected the £10 billion or so EU payment to be spent on the NHS is an insult to our intelligence. The point is we will have control of the money.

We did not expect immigration from the EU to cease, just that we would control it. The statement about our fears of being overrun by Turks is palpable nonsense. Theresa May has made as generous an offer as possible. If it is rejected then we should leave without a deal in March. The political and media class have no idea how ordinary voters think. That’s why they can’t understand the result.
Colin Southwell

Khan’s misguided expansion of TfL

What a surprise — Sadiq Khan now wants to add to Transport for London’s empire by taking over the lines coming into London that are failing their customers.

I’d add in a bit of caution as a user of the old Heathrow Connect service, which has been rebranded as TfL Rail. Apart from the new signing on the carriages and the slightly altered timetable, nothing has changed. The trains are still late and break down as they did before — hardly a switch worth making, I’d suggest.

The Mayor should focus more on getting the Tube system running reliably without the weekly breakdowns that have littered the summer so far. There are also the additional problems of knife crime and housing that he has failed to address. Stick to the basics before getting carried away.
Peter King

Foreign ‘threat’ has been very real

Chris Huhne [Letters, July 13] demonstrates beautifully how the centrist politics of his former party, the Lib-Dems, have become risible.

He derides the Tories, who, he asserts, have always needed a foreign menace to spice up their message. First, until 1911, the alleged threat came from the French. But hang on, hadn’t the countries been in conflict for much of the previous 900 years?

Then it was Germany until 1945. Excuse me, but wasn’t there the small matter of two world wars? And finally, from 1945, it was the Soviets, who, no doubt inadvertently, managed somehow to invade both Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968).

It seems those scaremongering Conservatives were actually right, three times out of three. I could actually vote for them.
Alan Carmichael