An international team of rescuers is working to free 12 young boys and their soccer coach who went missing in northern Thailand’s Tham Luang Nang Non cave system nine days ago, after being trapped in the dark tunnels by an unexpected downpour, CNN reports.
The boys have been given food and medical care by Thai Navy SEAL divers, but now authorities are struggling to determine what is the safest way to get them out. According to Al Jazeera, the Thai military has said that the team will have to learn to dive in order to escape the flooded tunnels of the cave. Otherwise, divers will have to continue bringing the boys supplies, and keep them in place until the water recedes, but that could take months. And neither option is without serious potential risks, U.S. National Cave Rescue Commission coordinator Anmar Mirza told the AP:
“Supplying them on-site may face challenges depending on how difficult the dives are. Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most dangerous situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy.”
He added that, “if the dives are difficult, then supply will be difficult, but the risk of trying to dive them out is also exponentially greater.”
The Wild Boar soccer team entered the caves on June 23, and had not been seen since. Rescuers from the Thai Navy SEALs, and experts from the U.S., U.K., China, and Australia, believed that the boys had taken refuge in a deep chamber known as Pattaya Beach. But when they were finally able to access it after the rain died down, they found that it had flooded. The team was eventually found by divers in another tunnel about 1,000 feet below. The rescue divers said the boys all appear to be safe.
While friends and family of the missing boys have been celebrating their discovery, the governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osottanakorn, has urged caution, telling reporters that “Our mission (is) not done yet.”
“We will drain all water out from the cave then we will take all 13 people out of the cave. We are now planning how to send nurse and doctor inside the cave to check their health and movement. We will work all night.”
The governor said it would take medical teams up to four hours to determine the boys’ health, and how best to extract them.
“When the medics have evaluated the kids, we will care for them until they have enough strength to move by themselves, and then we will evaluate the situation on bringing them out again later,” he added.
In the meantime, the government continues to try to drain water out of the cave to facilitate the team’s extraction. They have also transported drilling equipment to the site in order to start digging another exit, but according to ABC News, drilling a shaft big enough for all 13 people to climb through could be difficult and time consuming.
This post has been updated with new information on how rescuers are planning to extract the team. We will continue to update this post as we learn more about the situation.