Boys trapped in Thai cave are 'not ready' for underwater escape

Thai soccer team cave rescue

Shayanne Gal Business Insider

An underwater effort to try to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach stranded for two weeks in the flooded Tham Luang Cave will not be mounted in the immediate future, the commander of the operation said on Saturday.

Noting that a means to free the boys has not been decided, Mr Narongsak said that the water levels from the cave entrance to chamber three - where the rescue base is - is now low enough for personnel to walk through. A video surfaced Friday of him waiting to board a plane from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, announcing proudly that he was going to "bring the kids home". "Love you all", wrote Mick.

But he added a significant rider - that if the forecast heavy rains arrived, diving teams would attempt to pull the boys out rapidly.

"Teacher, don't give us a lot of homework", it concluded.

Another, Tan, wrote: "Mum and Dad don't worry about me, I'm fine". Every inhalation means more oxygen is taken from the cave pockets and every exhalation means more carbon dioxide.

One boy, called Nick, wrote: "Mum, Dad, Nick loves Mum and Dad and siblings".

"I've been speaking about it with a few of the boys", said England defender John Stones, according to British media. "I will help you at the shop soon".

Officials say they have a window of up to four days before rains will make the rescue more hard. 3rd letter Sompong "Pong" Jaiwong, 13, wrote: "Dear Mum and Dad, I love you".

The letters provoked a surge of emotion from families, who endured nine long days before their children were found and now face an agonising wait for a risky evacuation.

The suggestion that the trapped team might have to wait months inside until a safe way out is available - as was the case in 2010 with Chilean miners trapped underground - has been met with little enthusiasm.

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Teams have a three to four-day window to save the boys, said Osottankorn. "The flawless situation is no water at all, zero, but it's impossible because that only happens in December or January", he said.

Katadzic has not dived the final kilometre to where the boys are stranded on a muddy bank, the most unsafe part of the dive, during which rescuers have to hold their oxygen tanks in front of them to squeeze through submerged holes.

The death of an experienced rescue diver in the cave system underlined the inherent risks in attempting to move the boys.

If the risk from either the air or water increased "to the point that we can not accept, we will make decision", he said. A team of bird's nest collectors scour the mountainside for openings.

If that appears likely to happen, Narongsak said, officials could proceed with an underwater rescue.

Some areas in the cave complex are so narrow, the boys, who do not have diving experience, would have to swim through the muddy waters unaccompanied.

The players remain trapped despite being reached this week by cave-diving rescuers, who released footage of them looking emaciated but calm, some wearing football shirts. Crews are installing a three-mile-long oxygen tube and have delivered more tanks to the boys' location.

The body of Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy SEAL who died during an overnight mission, is carried during a repatriation and religious rites ceremony at Chiang Rai Airport on Friday.

Kunan had been trying to establish the air line to the chamber when he passed out and perished, raising serious doubts over the safety of trying to bring the group out through the cramped, waterlogged passageways.

Narongsak said the drills would have to pierce 600 metres (1,970 feet) of fragile limestone rock to reach the boys and rescuers were discussing drilling angles.

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