Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Sports | By Phillip Butler

Teen soccer team may be stuck in Thailand cave for months

Teen soccer team may be stuck in Thailand cave for months

Rescuers found all 12 boys and their soccer coach alive deep inside a partially flooded cave in northern Thailand late Monday, more than a week after they disappeared and touched off a desperate search that drew worldwide help and captivated the nation.

"The American people join Thais in celebrating the discovery of the football team and their coach in Tham Luang cave", said US Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies. But the murky water is hard to navigate even for experienced divers.

Rescuers are trying to figure out how to free a dozen teen boys and their coach from a Thailand cave, which officials say could take months.

Rescuers are pumping water in huge volumes out of the cave, fully aware that more rain is scheduled over the coming few days.

A massive worldwide rescue effort has been under way since, with rescue teams battling through thick mud and high water to try to reach the group in the cave network that stretches 10 km (6 miles) into a mountain.

The 12 boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old assistant coach disappeared on June 23 after soccer practice. The boys, anxious to to leave the cave, asked when they would be going "outside", to which the diver responded, "No, not today". More than 1,000 first responders from around the world searched for 10 days. "We hope we can help", said Wang Lin, the head of the group.

The monsoonal rains that led to the group being trapped in the caves to begin with have hampered rescue efforts, and the bad weather isn't over yet.

"We will take care of them until they can move", Narongsak told reporters, who applauded at the news, according to Agency France-Presse.

Thai navy SEAL divers have been crucial to the search, but have been stymied by muddy water reaching the cave's ceiling, forcing them to suspend operations again and again.

As part of the rescue effort, search parties have been lowered down shafts on the mountainside, but it was unclear what progress they had made, or exactly where they were in relation to the "Pattaya Beach" chamber. The teams that swam Sunday included the SEALs, Australian divers and rescuers from the Thai city of Ayutthaya.

"We worked so hard to find them and we will not lose them", Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn told the AP.

In video posted on Facebook by Thai Navy SEAL special forces, one can be heard speaking in English to the group, as they sit on a ledge above water in a cavern, picked out by torchlight. They must be able to use diving gear. That could take as long as months, however, given that Thailand's rainy season typically lasts through October.

"The Royal Thai Government and the Thai people are grateful for this support and cooperation, and we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery", Prayuth's office said in a statement.

The group's health was assessed overnight by medical teams which will continue to check the health of the group on Monday, said Narongsak, explaining that the boys had sustained light injuries.

Cochrane said thousands of soldiers have been scouring the mountain looking for ventilation shafts that could provide a back door to the cave.

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