Police drop survival packages in flooded Thailand caves for missing boy footballers and coach

Prime minister urges families on site not to give up hope as shafts found that may offer access

Friday 29 June 2018 17:47
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Thai Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha visits scene of cave rescue effort

Police have begun dropping survival packages into a flooded Thai cave complex where 12 boys and their football coach are missing, in the hope the group may find them.

International rescue teams are helping the country’s army, navy and police search for the group. However, the six-day search operation that has been hampered by heavy rain.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old assistant coach went missing on Saturday. They entered the six-mile cave complex, despite a sign warning visitors that the maze of passages and chambers was prone to flooding.

The packages dropped in today contain food, drinks, a phone, a torch, candles, a lighter and a map of the cave.

Experts cannot tell whether the items might reach the boys but dropped them through a shaft drilled in the mountainside.

On a visit to the site, Thailand's prime minister urged their relatives not to give up hope.

"There has to be faith. Faith makes everything a success," Prayuth Chan-ocha, the country's military ruler, told families waiting outside the cave. "Faith in the actions of officials. Faith in our children who are strong and vigorous. Everything will go back to normal."

The boys and their coach entered the sprawling Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province after a football game.

But near-constant rain since then has raised water levels near the entrance to the cave, despite days of efforts to drain the water.

Care packages dropped for boys missing in Thailand cave

Authorities said they hoped the group had found a dry place inside to wait and that they were healthy enough to stay alive.

Bicycles and football boots belonging to the boys were found near the entrance but the search has so far yielded no other trace of them.

Rescuers trying to find hidden shafts in the mountainside to access the complex have identified four potential spots.

Other crews were working to drill wells in the hope of draining the water, which could allow divers to advance into flooded passages. Thailand's rainy season still has months to go.

Authorities have warned that the rising water is complicating efforts to supply electricity to the cave, raising the risk of an accident.

Rescuers were reportedly injured and power had to be shut off. Several ambulances rushed people from the site. At least one police official initially said men had been electrocuted, but medical workers said a man had fainted while working on a water pump, prompting the scare, and another had a stomach ailment.

Thai navy SEAL divers have oxygen tanks but still need enough space between the water and the cave ceiling to surface for air and to ensure their safety in the muddy waters that fill rocky passages, some so tight the divers must bend their bodies to advance through them.

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