Wednesday 19 September 2018

British experts join bid to rescue Thai youngsters missing in caves

Heavy rains have hampered efforts to find the 12 boys and their football coach in Chiang Rai province.

Relatives pray for the missing boys (AP)
Relatives pray for the missing boys (AP)

By Tassanee Vejpongsa

British and US experts are assisting rescue crews in northern Thailand as they search a flooded cave where 12 boys and their football coach have been missing for five days.

Heavy rains have stalled search efforts inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province by raising water levels and forcing elite navy divers to halt their search in the sprawling complex.

UK cave experts and an American military team are helping Thai navy Seals in their efforts.

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(PA Graphics)

Authorities have also had to switch off power to water pumps due to electrical hazards as teams work to raise power cables above the floodwater.

“There’s not much we can do right now,” interior minister Anupong Paojinda said, adding that a key passageway was completely flooded.

“We have to wait for the water level to decrease. (Divers) can’t do anything right now.”

At a morning briefing, the Thai Seals explained to the US team that water levels had been rising overnight at a rate of about 6in per hour, complicating efforts to squeeze through the passageways inside, some of which require divers to contort their bodies around L-shaped bends.

The missing boys and coach entered the cave on Saturday afternoon. The cave complex extends several miles, with narrow passageways and uneven ground and is known to flood severely in rainy season.

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Water is pumped from the flooded cave (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

However, authorities have expressed hope there are dry places on higher ground within the cave where the group may be able to wait.

Deputy national police chief Wirachai Songmetta said he would join more than 600 rescuers above ground trying to find shafts that might form possible alternative entrances to the cave. The few shafts found so far did not provide access.

He said: “We won’t give up. That’s the key here.”

Press Association

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