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Thailand Efforts to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach who have been missing inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand for four days hinge on pumping out water so that navy divers have room to operate, according to the first high-level Thai official to visit the site.
Twelve boys aged between 11 and 16 have been lost in a flooded cave since Saturday Divers are working around the clock to locate the lost boys Water is being pumped out to create space for rescue crews Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda told reporters that navy SEAL divers leading the search were seriously handicapped by muddy water that had filled some chambers of the large cave to the ceilings.
He said the divers could proceed only when enough water was pumped out so there would be space between the water and the ceiling to make it safer to work. The divers will also soon start using special oxygen tanks that provide longer diving times, he said yesterday. A SEAL diver said the water was so murky that even with lights they could not see where they were going underwater, so they needed to be able to lift their heads above the water.
Mr Anupong said rescuers would be working night and day in the dark cave. They'll just need to rotate. But the search had to be suspended again because of high water. Soldiers guide auxiliary power lines into the cave to help the rescue effort.
Tassanee Vejpongsa Divers have been seeking a way forward through the chambers of the cave complex, but have been forced to suspend their search several times.
The authorities are also seeking alternative ways in, using helicopters and search parties on foot to find possible holes in the ceilings of other parts of the cave. A glimmer of hope was dashed yesterday afternoon after explorers found two fissures in the rock on the mountain in which the cave is located.
After evaluation, experts found neither could be used as a "chimney" to gain access to the cave. Rain that fell overnight increased the difficulty of exploring inside the cave. However, the initial chambers near the cave's entrance are dry, and a power line was extended inside to provide light and ventilation and help the divers communicate with those outside.
Rescuers gather in the staging area to search for the team missing since Saturday. Tessanee Vejpongsa The boys and their year-old coach entered the cave in Chiang Rai province late on Saturday afternoon.
A mother reported that her son did not return from football practice that day, setting off the search. Relatives pray for success Relatives of the missing boys and others performed a ritual Tuesday morning calling for those who are missing. They played drums and gongs and two relatives held fishing nets as symbols to fish out lost spirits from the cave.
Organiser Jiratat Kodyee said the ritual was a traditional way of showing support for the boys' families. The cave complex extends several kilometres and has wide chambers and narrow passageways with rocky outcrops and changes in elevation.
Still, officials have said they were hopeful the boys found a safe space away from the floods. Rising waters on Monday evening frustrated efforts to search farther in the cave, and efforts were halted temporarily. During the night, rescue teams and electricians extended a power line one kilometre and communication lines into the cave.
The boys and their coach left bicycles and other belongings at the entrance to the cave. Tassanee Vejpongsa Parents waited overnight in tents outside the cave entrance as rain poured. Medics sat in a tent nearby, and bicycles, backpacks and football cleats the boys left behind remained at the entrance.
At a prayer session Monday evening, some of the boys' relatives walked inside the cave entrance, where their cries echoed off the walls. I am waiting for you here! Another kneeled down near the bicycles and prayed, asking "where is my child?
Getting farther into the cave has required lots of oxygen and special diving skills, which would also complicate rescue efforts once the boys were found, officials said. The cave, cut into a mountainside near the border with Myanmar, can flood severely during the rainy season, which runs from June to October, and there are warnings against exploring then.
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