Wednesday 18 July 2018

Rainfall hampers bid to rescue schoolboys and football coach in Thailand cave

There has been no contact with the group since they entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province.

Relatives are praying that members of the missing football team were able to make it to safety (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Relatives are praying that members of the missing football team were able to make it to safety (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

By Tassanee Vejpongsa, Associated Press

Efforts to rescue 12 boys and their football coach trapped in a cave in Thailand are being hampered by heavy rainfall.

Muddy water rising to the ceiling of one of the chambers has prevented divers from progressing farther into the cave to where they think the young footballers and their coach, who went missing on Saturday, may be sheltering.

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(PA Graphics)

There has been no contact with the group since they entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province.

At the entrance to the cave, officials were bringing in large water hoses and more water pumps. Navy divers who have been working their way through the complex said that water levels were rising in some places at a rate of 15 centimeters per hour early on Wednesday.

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The rescue effort is being hampered by heavy rainfall (Thailand Department of National Parks and Wildlife via AP)

Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said: “We tried to pump the water (out of the chamber) but the water keeps rising. That means the water that comes in with the rain is still much more than what we can pump out. So we need to pump the water faster.”

He said teams continued to look for another way in to the blocked portions of the cave by searching for any shafts that might be accessible on the surface of the mountain, under which the cave sits.

Two fissures were found on Tuesday but proved to be dead ends. The rescuers were exploring another one found on Wednesday morning.

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Rescue personnel are searching for alternate entrances to the cave (AP)

Despite setbacks, officials remained publicly optimistic about the prospects for a successful rescue.

“We still have hope. All agencies are trying their best. We have a challenge from the water level that keep rising,” Thai army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart told reporters at the site. “We are adding more pumps to lower the level down so that the Seal team could operate better.”

He added that all agencies were working hard, “rotating 24 hours so that we can have a success in this operation”.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda told reporters earlier that the divers could proceed only when enough water is pumped out so there is 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.

A diver said the water is so murky that even with lights they cannot see where they are going underwater, so they need to be able to lift their heads above the water.

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Thai soldiers bring hoses and additional water pumps to continue the search (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

The boys aged 11-16 have been missing since their 25-year-old coach took them to the cave complex on Saturday after a practice match.

Authorities have said footprints and handprints were found inside the cave complex, as well as other items thought to belong to the boys. They noted that tourists trapped there by past floods have been rescued after the waters receded.

The cave, cut into a mountainside near the border with Burma, can flood severely during the rainy season, which runs from June to October.

Press Association

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