'Race against water' as rain threatens Thai cave rescue efforts

Elena Summers
July 6, 2018

Rescuers prepare dive gear at the entrance to a cave complex in which 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, July 4, 2018.

Thai rescuers on Thursday said they may be prodded into a complex extraction of 12 boys and their football coach from a flooded cave if forecast rains hammer the mountainside and jeopardise the rescue mission.

It should be noted that the football coach and the team have been inside the cave for a period of two weeks now.

Rescuers have been working to drain the water out of the cave as rain looms on the forecast.

'What we worry most is the weather, ' Mr Osatanakorn said.

"In the previous days we were fighting with time".

TRT World 's Regan Des Vignes reports.

He also confirmed that a communications cable had been laid only as far as the T-junction, so the boys had not yet been able to speak directly to their parents.

Numerous youngsters - who are aged between 11-16 - are unable to swim and none have diving experience.

"Nobody will teach anyone a full cave course, but trying to get them comfortable with masks, with the breathing, (is) completely different", said Claus Rasmusen, a certified cave diving instructor based in Thailand who has been helping Thai SEAL team.

But they will have to wait until the trapped Thai boys have eaten solid food and gained weight before a perilous swim to freedom can be attempted.

Videos released on Wednesday showed the boys laughing and saying they were "in good health". "We hope there is no rain", he added.

Yesterday the target was an area known as chamber three - still at least two kilometres from the ledge where the boys are sheltering.

The current plan is to pump out enough water to allow them to keep their heads above water while escaping.

Authorities have been able to drain some of the water from the cave where a Thai soccer team has been trapped for 12 days, which may allow the team to avoid using diving equipment and nearly walk out.

Cave rescue experts have said the safest option for the group may be to remain where they are until the water recedes.

Nobody seems to know as yet how many days it might take until the 13 adolescent males trapped inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand can be brought out safely, according to a senior government official on Wednesday.

Oxygen "stage tanks" have been placed every 25 to 50 metres along the linked system of cave chambers so that the boys can get extra oxygen if needed.

But that option is a last resort and may have to be taken off the table if flooding worsens.

They are also cooperating with Thai Navy colleagues and the wider worldwide dive teams to stock dive tanks and other equipment throughout the route to aid the eventual evacuation of the isolated cavern.

A team of medical personnel and divers were by the side of the boys and their coach, who were found by divers on Monday night and have now been trapped for more than 10 days inside the cave.

Several Thai Navy divers and medics are staying with them and the video footage showed the group in seemingly good spirits.

"They can not do anything. they have to save energy", said Major General Bancha Duriyaphan.

"They are chit-chatting in general, talking, eating and sleeping", he said.

Kian Kamluang, whose 16-year-old son, Pornchai, is in the cave, said she had thought there was a 50 percent chance that her son would be found.

This she believe helped him and the 12 boys to survive.

Osottanakorn said that teams on the surface were no longer drilling into the rock to create new shafts, but are focusing efforts on finding existing chimneys.

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