Divers rescue Thai Buddhist monk trapped in flooded cave

Rescuers help Phra Manas, center, walk out from the Tham Phra Sai Ngam cave in northern Thailand's Phitsanulok province, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Phra Manas, 46 years old, was trapped inside a cave for four days by floodwaters when he was finally rescued. Phra Manas, entered the Tham Phra Sai Ngam cave to meditate. (AP Photo) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BANGKOK – A Buddhist monk who was trapped by floodwaters inside a cave in northern Thailand for four days has been rescued by divers, a provincial official said Wednesday.

The 46-year-old monk, Phra Manas, entered Tham Phra Sai Ngam cave in Phitsanulok province on Saturday to meditate, said Therayuth Chandithawong, chief of the provincial Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation. Many caves in Thailand have shrines in spots considered holy.

While the monk was inside, heavy rain from a summer thunderstorm raised water levels inside the cave significantly, blocking the entrance and stranding the monk on high ground inside, Therayuth said.

The incident and its successful resolution recalled the 2018 ordeal of the members of the “Wild Boars” soccer team, who were trapped for more than two weeks inside a cave in Chiang Rai province, also in the north. Thai Navy Seals and an international team of cave divers and hundreds of helpers managed the extremely complicated rescue of the 12 boys and their coach.

Phra Manas makes a pilgrimage every April from another province to meditate in Tham Phra Sai Ngam cave, Therayuth said.

When the monk didn't return after the rain, villagers alerted local authorities.

Hundreds of rescue workers, including divers, medics and other specialists gathered at the scene.

Seven divers went into the cave Wednesday morning after the rain stopped and found the monk, who put on a diving mask and was led to safety through a submerged distance of 12 meters (39 feet).