Thai Cave Rescuers In Race Against The Rain
With heavy weekend rain expected, Thai rescuers are racing against time to pump water out of a flooded cave so they can safely remove 12 boys and their soccer coach with minimum risk, officials say.
A firefighter, who is working on draining the water, says levels in some parts of the passage leading to a chamber where the team were discovered on Monday after 10 days of searching is still flooded all the way to the ceiling, making diving the only way out.
"What we worry most is the weather," Chiang Rai provincial Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn told reporters on Thursday, adding heavy rain is predicted to start on Saturday.
"We can't risk having the flood back into the cave."
The governor said he's also spoken with Thai Navy Seals about the whether they can take the risk of having the team, many of whom cannot swim, use masks and oxygen tanks to make their way through kilometres of muddy water.
Osatanakorn said he'd requested 13 sets of dive gear be prepared, just in case it's decided to bring the boys out before the water clears.
"This morning, I have asked for 13 sets of (diving) equipment to be prepared and checked the equipment lists and place them inside (the cave) in case we have to bring them out in this condition with less than 100 per cent readiness," Osatanakorn said.
The team of 12 boys aged 11 to 16 and their 25-year-old coach became trapped on June 23 when monsoonal rain blocked their exit while exploring the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system in the north of the province.
Earlier Osatanakorn said not all 13 would be extracted together, depending on their condition, but said they have been practising wearing diving masks and breathing, but haven't attempted any actual dives as yet.
Officials have said they would prefer to bring the team out as soon as possible as heavy rain is expected to raise water levels inside the cave making passage in some parts difficult if not impossible.
The Australian Defence Force confirmed it had sent two disaster recovery specialists to aid in the rescue, in addition to crews that were sent earlier as part of an international effort.
Australian Federal Police divers and other Australian support staff are assisting Thai Navy deliver food, water and first aid supplies to the group within the cave, the Australian Federal Police said in a statement on Thursday.
Fresh footage emerged on Wednesday of the smiling faces of the boys, clad in silver foil space blankets.
Seeing the boys has boosted the mood of their family members, and officials are working to install an internet cable to the cave so that parents can talk to their children.
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.
"It's like he has been given a new life," she said, adding that she'll never let her son go into a cave or near water again.
Experienced divers are wary of taking out the boys through the dark and dangerous waters still in the cave, especially since they are untrained.
"We are talking kilometres of transport under the water with zero visibility," said Claus Rasmusen, a certified cave diving instructor based in Thailand who has been helping Thai SEAL team with logistics.