A Thai youth soccer team trapped in a cave by floodwaters may have to wait months before they can be rescued.
The twelve boys and their coach had been missing for nine days before military divers found them Monday in Thailand’s northern Chiang Rai province. But their discovery is only the beginning of their ordeal. The team now face the choice of learning to dive in perilous conditions or waiting months for the waters to recede.
The boys—aged 11 to 16—and their 25-year-old minder may have to wait in the cave for as long as four months, the BBC reported, sustained by supplies brought in by military divers.
The case has captured the world’s attention while hope for the team dwindled as the days wore on. Power and telephone lines are now being installed inside the cave so the missing youths can speak with their parents, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakon said. He assured reporters that rescuers “won’t bring them out until we find a totally safe way,” the Bangkok Post reported.
The Thai rescue team was joined by two British rescue divers who found the boys late Monday. Thai Navy SEAL special forces posted a video of the first encounter in which the British divers told the group they would return with more divers and supplies on Tuesday. In the video, the boys can be seen huddled on a small ledge above the water. Some members of the group asked what day it was and told the rescuers they were hungry.
It is believed the team entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23 when it was still dry, before sudden heavy rains blocked their exit. The boys were found roughly 2.5 miles from the cave entrance. Conditions inside the cave are treacherous, with rushing water and debris degrading visibility and making the cave system’s sharp turns even more challenging. Even if the boys were taught diving skills, taking them out of the cave would still be risky.
Edd Sorenson of International Cave Rescue and Recovery told the Guardian it would be “unbelievably dangerous” for untrained divers to try and swim to freedom. “As long as the kids know we know where they’re at, they have food, a way to keep warm, water or filtration systems and light, it would really be the safest to wait it out,” he suggested.
However, Thai navy captain Anand Surawan said his team were preparing to “train all 13 to dive while continuing to drain the water,” though noted that enough food and supplies would be delivered to the boys to sustain them for four months.