Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

As it happenedended1530900956

Thailand cave rescue live: No rescue attempt until boys learn to use diving equipment, says top official

Former navy SEAL diver dies trying to prepare for boys' rescue as threat of new rains is imminent

Missing Thai boys found trapped in cave with their football coach

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Authorities in Thailand say they cannot immediately attempt an underwater evacuation of free 12 boys and their football coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, as the children have not yet learnt to use dive equipment. That is despite imminent new rainstorms threatening to undo all their best efforts to drain water from the cave network.

The official in immediate charge of the operation, Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, indicated strongly at a midnight news conference that if heavy rains started and appeared to be causing flooded areas in the cave to rise again, they would try to take the boys out with divers right away.

In addition to the rains, a new urgent threat has emerged in the form of reduced oxygen levels in the chamber where the boys are trapped. The navy SEAL commander leading the operation said today: “We originally thought the boys can stay safe inside the cave for quite some time but circumstances have changed. We have a limited amount of time.”

The dangers involved in getting the boys out of the cave were emphasised overnight when an experienced diver, 38-year-old former navy SEAL Saman Gunan, died after falling unconscious underwater. He is to be given a royal-sponsored funeral.

Please wait a moment for the live blog to load

Authorities have been racing to pump out water from the cave before more storms hit the region in the coming days and send water levels rising again.

At this time though, the only way for the boys to get out of the cave is by diving, something cave rescue experts warn is extremely dangerous even for those with experience.

Friday’s death of the former Seal underscores those risks. The diver was working in a volunteer capacity and died during an overnight mission in which he was placing oxygen canisters along the route divers must take to get to the children, navy SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew said.

The strategically placed canisters allow divers to stay under water for longer during what is about a five-hour trip to reach the stranded team.

While underwater, the rescuer passed out and efforts to resuscitate him failed, Mr Arpakorn said.

Another navy official said he did not believe the man’s oxygen tank ran out.

“Despite this, we will continue until we accomplish our mission,” Mr Arpakorn said.


Authorities have been racing to pump out water from the cave before more storms in the coming days raise the water levels again.

At this time though, diving is the only possible method of escape, even though cave rescue experts warn it is extremely dangerous even for those with experience. 

Samuel Osborne6 July 2018 14:26

The dramatic rescue efforts have garnered international attention, perhaps most notably at football's most widely watched event, the World Cup, being played in Russia.

A diver who spent time with the boys said earlier the youngsters wanted to know the results of the matches.

Players from teams including England and Sweden have recorded good luck video messages for the trapped boys, and FIFA has invited the 13 to the World Cup final should they be rescued in time and are healthy enough to travel. 

The effort has also brought international assistance including US military personnel and the British cave-divers who first found the boys on Monday. 

Samuel Osborne6 July 2018 15:21

A number of stalls have been set up around the rescue area, as people try and create a community spirit and keep things as upbeat as possible.

There was a similar effort during the mining recuse in Chile in 2010.

Steve Anderson6 July 2018 16:16

At the moment, we are waiting for a late night press conference to take place for an update.

Steve Anderson6 July 2018 16:17

Here is our story on a very Elon Musk-like suggestion to help the Thai rescue, from the Tesla founder.

Steve Anderson6 July 2018 16:23

According to Reuters, rescuers are trying to find alternative ways to rescue the 12 boys and their coach.

“We are trying to find alternative techniques to reach the 13,” Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters.

“We have considered many alternatives to find the most feasible ones."

Andrew Buncombe6 July 2018 16:34

Belgian media is reporting that a rescue mission may begin imminently. Ben Reymenants, a Belgian diver who is at the scene, said divers were preparing to lead the boys to the cave’s exit, two-at-a-time

“It remains a difficult course through a labyrinth of corridors, with lots of diving and climbing," he told HLN. "But the process is along with the current and the visibility under water is already a lot better"

Andrew Buncombe6 July 2018 16:40

Mr Reymenants said the rescue operation would begin with the two strongest boys.

"That's how the divers go up and down six times. To go to the group takes about three hours, swimming back goes smoothly through the current," he said.

"After that, the oxygen bottles are refilled and the rescuers leave again to pick up the next boys. We estimate that we can reduce about four people per day, which in the best case lasts a maximum of three days." 

Andrew Buncombe6 July 2018 16:43

He added: "The conditions are not getting better, with the expected rainfall. The boys themselves also have the courage. They are already starting to fantasise about what they want to eat when they come home."

Andrew Buncombe6 July 2018 16:45

The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach went exploring in the cave after a soccer game on June 23

Andrew Buncombe6 July 2018 16:48

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in