Floods Hamper Cave Search for Missing Thai Soccer Team

Nontarat Phaicharoen
180628-TH-cave-620.JPG Rescue workers are seen inside the Tham Luang cave during a search for 12 members of a youth soccer team and their coach in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018.

British cave divers backed by a U.S. search team joined the Thai Navy in efforts to rescue a dozen children and their soccer coach inside a flooded six-mile (10-km) cave more than five days after they went missing, officials said Thursday.

Rescuers worked above ground searching for different entry points that could lead them to the missing soccer team Thursday, as rain fell and flood waters rose inside the Tham Luang cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai.

“Rescuers will resume their attempt to move through the cave when the water level recedes and they are sure there will be no flash flooding. Otherwise, it is too risky for the divers who could get stuck in the cave,” the Navy said is a news release, after it halted the operations in the afternoon.

The Wild Boar Academy Mae Sai Football Club and their coach vanished after entering the cave following a practice session mid-Saturday, prompting a mother to file a police report, officials said.

The government dispatched a Navy SEAL team late Sunday evening after a preliminary search by local authorities failed on the first day, officials said.

Traces of finger prints were found Monday on a sand dune about two miles (three km) from the cave’s entrance. Since then, rescue efforts have been hampered by rising floodwaters inside the cave, rescuers said.

“We are pumping water, so the SEALs can work. A part of the U.S. team went to the top of the cave and their divers will join our divers when the water level allows,” Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters near the cave entrance on Thursday.

Since the children went missing, rain – sometimes heavy – has fallen, creating hazards for divers trying to get through the many chambers and submerged passages, and for several hundred others who are trying to find alternative access routes from outside into the cave.


On Wednesday, rescuers found a 90-foot deep shaft and dropped food and water in hopes the supplies would reach the missing children and their coach.

A physician at the scene expressed confidence that the soccer team could be rescued.

“They have oxygen to breathe because there are some shafts, water to drink, they could still be alive,” Dr. Thanasarn Preutisataporn told reporters at the scene.

“In the cave, there are no disease carriers, the bats have no germs,” he said. “They are strong kids. They could survive a considerably long period.”

A spokesman for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha said he planned to visit the cave Friday, according to Agence France-Presse.

“He wants to offer moral support to parents of the missing boys and the coach and all the officials working there," Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, whose youngest son, 13-year-old Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, was following developments closely, expressed concern through his secretary about traffic congestion and disorder at the scene, according to the New York Times. The king’s sister, Princess Chulabhorn, donated $15,000 to the effort, according to Thai media.

The U.S. government praised the Thai rescuers for their tremendous efforts. “We hope the players and their coach will be brought home quickly and safely,” it said in a news release.

A map from Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency shows sections of the   Tham Luang cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand. (GISTDA)
A map from Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency shows sections of the Tham Luang cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand. (GISTDA)


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