Tham Luang cave rescue incident is taking combined effort of Engineers throughout the world. Various news media is telling currently it is not possible to pass more than one person through some very narrow portions of the cave tunnel (so the boys have to learn diving within cave).


This is a Map by BBC, perhaps from here of BBC; showing the narrow places in cross sections.

Now; my question is; why the engineers are not attempting to use abrasion (with a grinding wheel or such thing) and rock cutting wheels to broaden these "too narrow" parts so that later on 2 people (a diver carrying a boy) can come out at a time?

Is there any hidden risk of attempting so? Is that the cause for not atempting so?

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    $\begingroup$ How much material do you have to remove to make a tunnel that is 40cm in diameter to 100cm in diameter over a length of say 10 metres and if you only have hand tools (hammer and chisel) how long will it take? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 5, 2018 at 11:43
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    $\begingroup$ Also, all the material you remove has to go somewhere. Either you dump it into the water and let it block up the downstream sections that are already flooded, or you have to carry it all out by hand. Neither sounds a good option. Also, if this is a natural cave that is an international tourist attraction (for cavers, at least) would anyone want to permanently vandalize it - everyone knows (or should know) that caving is a high risk activity! $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Jul 5, 2018 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ Grind out 2 km of cave under water? $\endgroup$
    – paparazzo
    Jul 5, 2018 at 12:44
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    $\begingroup$ Plus, one bit of "bad luck" that causes the roof to collapse, and you have a completely blocked up cave - game over. It takes years of geological surveying to plan a tunnel-boring project on this scale. $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Jul 5, 2018 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ In addition to the other comments. Most rock is very hard to grind & would take significant time to widen the narrow regions. Also the profile of the cave & its convoluted path makes would make it difficult to get grinding equipment to where would be required - it's not a straight tunnel. Also there may not be grinding equipment small enough that would be suitable. It would be faster to use hand held drilling equipment & explosives to widen those regions. But that has it's own safety issues, particularly concerning the trapped individuals. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Jul 5, 2018 at 15:13

1 Answer 1


Any underground work requires special research which takes time. Modifying the tunnel would mean increasing flow rate of water and therefore current strength. With larger volumes comes additional erosion issues such as deposition. As the diameter of an opening increases the flow velocity decreases causing deposition of material and narrowing of the vertical space.

Risk of collapse is probably high in wet ground which is already causing problems.

Removing material means it has to be manually transported a very long distance underground and delay rescue before flooding expected widely at any moment. Rather than remove cave material, remove the problem: the children.


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