Agonising rescue ahead for Thai cave boys as nation rejoices

Agonising rescue ahead for Thai cave boys as nation rejoices

A pair of British divers assisting the Thai SEALs found them some 1,300 feet further into the complex after discovering Pattaya was also flooded.

Seven members of a Thai navy SEALS unit, including a medic and a counsellor, were staying with the group after its dramatic discovery on an elevated rock late on Monday by divers who had struggled for hours through narrow passages and murky waters.

Dozens of local and foreign rescuers, including a team of Navy divers and several cave experts, had spent the past few days helping to locate the team, but rising and muddy waters showing no signs of receding have stymied efforts and blocked access to chambers of the cave.

His deputy, Passakorn Bunyalak, dismissed rumours that the mission could last up to four months, but said the boys' safety was paramount and their extraction should not be rushed.

Narongsak Osottanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province where the cave is located, said the boys are in stable health condition and that a communications system is being installed to allow them to speak with their families soon for the first time since their disappearance.

A video shared by the Thai Navy captured their first contact.

One of the boys, noticing the camera and hearing words they don't immediately understand, says in Thai, "Oh, they want to take a picture; tell him we're hungry".

They ask how long they have been underground and whether they can leave now.

He said officials had met and agreed on the need to "ensure 100 percent safety for the boys when we bring them out". It was pure speculation that they could be there in one of these two rooms.

The search for the group had gripped the nation as it was unclear where they were or whether they were even still alive.

While news of their survival let family members breathe a sigh of relief, celebrations were cut short as rescuers realized extracting the team from the cave would prove more hard than originally imagined. They are also keen to get some food.

On June 23, the boys and their coach went to explore a cave in northern Thailand after soccer practice.

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Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, two expert cave divers from Britain, found the group about 300-400 meters (yards) past a section of the cave on higher ground that was believed to be where they might have taken shelter.

"They're 2 miles in, it's an arduous trip". Conditions inside the cave are treacherous, with rushing water and debris degrading visibility and making the cave system's sharp turns even more challenging.

In an astonishing piece of footage obtained by ABC News, one of the boys can be heard saying "I am very happy", after being discovered by the diver team.

Divers had to navigate a series of sharp, narrow bends in near-darkness.

No one knows exactly when the boys and their coach will get out, or by what method.

At the Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai, security personnel turned away scores of people who came to show support, while more journalists joined hundreds of media representatives who have covered the drama blow-by-blow.

If the children are to be brought out before then, they will have to learn basic diving skills.

But the race to get them out will escalate on Wednesday as rescue workers brace for more heavy rains that will likely stymie "plan A" to pump water out of the caves.

Experts have said the safest option could be to supply the 12 boys and their coach where they are and wait for the water levels to drop. They must be able to use diving gear. "And the rainy season has just started here - water levels will rise", he said.

Along with the search efforts inside the cave, rescuers have searched on the mountainside for possible ways into the caverns below.

Capt. Akanand Surawan, a commander with the Royal Thai Navy, said authorities will supply the team with four months' worth of food.

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