It Could Take Months To Rescue The Teen Soccer Team Trapped In A Cave In Thailand

The 12 boys and their coach have been found alive, but rescuers may have to wait for floodwaters to subside to get them out.

Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP / Getty Images

A family member shows a picture of four of the 12 missing boys near the Tham Luang cave.

It could be months before the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand are rescued.

The group, who went missing June 23, were found alive by divers Monday on a small ledge above the water in a section of the 6-mile-long Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex.

Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

Soldiers and rescue workers near the cave complex.

It could take many weeks for the monsoon floodwaters to recede, leaving rescuers with the option of supplying the group with food, water, and other essential items during this time, or trying to teach them to dive through the flooded caves. A third option could be drilling a hole elsewhere in the caves and rescuing the group from there.

"[We will] prepare to send additional food to be sustained for at least four months and train all 13 to dive while continuing to drain the water," navy Capt. Anand Surawan said, according to a statement from Thailand's armed forces.

Sakchai Lalit / AP

Rescuers at the entrance to the cave complex.

But Thailand's Interior Minister said monsoon rains may mean rescuers have to act much earlier.

"As rain is forecast in the next few days, the evacuation must speed up. Diving gear will be used. If the water rises, the task will be difficult. We must bring the kids out before then," Anupong Paojinda was quoted by the English-language Bangkok Post as saying.

Linh Pham / Getty Images

General Bancha Duriyaphan of the Thai Armed Forces speaks to journalists after the boys and their coach were found.

Teaching the children and their coach to dive is fraught with difficulties, however, as the caves are narrow and visibility poor. It has been reported that none of the group can swim. Rescuers are appealing for small full face masks that can be easier for inexperienced divers to use.

An informal medical evaluation of the group has deemed them all to be in a stable condition, the governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said Tuesday.

Footage of the moment two volunteer British rescue divers found the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their coach from the Moo Pa (Wild Boar) soccer academy was posted on Facebook by Thailand's Navy SEALs.

In the video, the group can be heard thanking the divers, who ask how many of them are there. "Brilliant," one of the divers says, when he's told all 12 of the boys and their 25-year-old coach are there.

Sakchai Lalit / AP

Soldiers carry a pump to help drain the rising flood water in the caves.

The British Cave Rescue Council, which is among a number of international groups helping the rescue effort, said diving lines had been laid to the location of the boys and their coach, so that other divers can more easily bring them supplies.

The boys and their coach are believed to be around 1.2 miles into the cave, and half a mile underground.

Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP / Getty Images

Family members camping out near the cave celebrate after learning the boys are alive.

"We believe that there is only a short break in the monsoon and all feasible options for the rescue of the boys are being considered," the council said in a media briefing.

"Although water levels have dropped, the diving conditions remain difficult and any attempt to dive the boys and their coach out will not be taken lightly because there are significant technical challenges and risks to consider."

Finally, we did it. 😭 #ถ้ำหลวง #13ชีวิตต้องรอด

In two videos released by Thailand's navy Wednesday, the soccer teammates again appeared to be in good health, smiling as they engaged with Thai navy SEALs who were treating the boys for minor cuts on their legs and feet. Other boys are seen draped in foil blankets to keep warm.

It is thought that the boys' coach took them to visit the caves after practice, and that the group was subsequently trapped by rising water levels.

Their disappearance sparked a huge rescue attempt that has gripped Thailand, while worried relatives and loved ones have maintained vigils near the cave entrance since the group went missing.

Thai News Pix / AP

A pair of soccer shoes left next to bicycles from the group of missing boys at the entrance to the caves.



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.