Thai coach apologises to parents as boys trapped in cave reassure families in letters
The youth football coach trapped in a partially flooded cave in Thailand with 12 members of his team has apologised to their parents in the first letter sent out with divers.
The boys also wrote saying they are doing well and missing their families.
The local governor in charge of the mission to rescue them said favourable weather and falling water levels over the past few days had created appropriate conditions for evacuation, but they would not last if it rains again.
Thai officials have repeatedly said a quick underwater evacuation of the boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach was needed because access to the cave could soon close again due to flooding from seasonal monsoon rains.
Earlier efforts to pump out water from the cave have been set back every time there has been heavy rain.
Chiang Rai acting governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said rescuers are "at war with water", and experts told him flooding from new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square metres.
There are also concerns about the percentage of oxygen in the air at the boys' safe space falling, and carbon dioxide increasing, posing a serious health hazard. The boys and their coach are accompanied by several Thai navy divers.
Rescuers were unable to extend a hose pumping oxygen all the way to where the boys are, but have brought them some oxygen tanks.
On Friday night drivers brought out poignant letters written by those trapped inside.
Ekapol Chanthawong, the coach of the Wild Boars football team, wrote: "To the parents of all the kids, right now the kids are all fine, the crew are taking good care. I promise I will care for the kids as best as possible. I want to say thanks for all the support and I want to apologise to the parents."
One boy wrote: "I'm doing fine, but the air is a little cold, but don't worry. Although, don't forget to set up my birthday party."
Another, identified as Tun, wrote: "Mom and Dad, please don't worry, I am fine. I've told Yod to get ready to take me out for fried chicken. With love."
The rest of the scribbled letters on pages from a notebook struck a similar message of love for parents and telling them not to worry.
A boy named Mick wrote: "Don't be worried, I miss everyone. Grandpa, Uncle, Mom, Dad and siblings, I love you all. I'm happy being here inside, the navy SEALS have taken good care. Love you all."
The boys and their coach have been trapped since June 23, when they went exploring in the cave after a football game.
Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days. The only way to reach them was by navigating dark, tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygen-depleted air.
Rescuers are also pursuing other options to extract the boys, hoping that finding a shaft or drilling into the mountain in which the cave is located will lead them to a sort of backdoor entrance.