Thai Boys Wait for Rescue from Cave

The 12 boys found trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand have sent video messages to their families, who are waiting anxiously for their return. Eleven days after the group went missing, all appear to be in good health.

Thailand's navy released the new video of the boys and their soccer coach on July 4th. It shows them wrapped in what appear to be warming blankets. They each fold their hands in the Thai greeting and introduce themselves in a few words.

They all break into laughter when one boy sitting in front says he missed out saying something for the recording. The video also shows them getting treatment for the scrapes on their feet and legs.

Thai authorities are considering sending in navy divers to help the boys swim out through the caves' tight corners, but it is still not clear exactly when and how the group will be brought out. A local official says they will continue pumping water out of the caves.

Families ecstatic

The 12 boys and their coach were found alive on July 2nd. Rescue divers had spotted the group about five kilometers from the entrance to the cave network. Distraught relatives were ecstatic at the news.

Thailand's navy released video footage of the moment the divers found them. The boys, clad in red soccer uniforms, are sitting with their coach on a ledge above the water. They are visible by torchlight and appear to be weak. They don't stand up, even after seeing the rescuers, who are trying to cheer them up. They are not far from the flood waters. Here's a sample of the audio recording.

Diver: "How many are you?"
Boys: "13"
Diver: "13, brilliant!"
Diver: "Many people are coming."

The divers also told the boys that they are very strong.

Local authorities confirmed late on Monday night that the divers had found the 13 alive. The mother of one of the boys said everybody was praying for their safety. The provincial governor had described the situation as "a mission impossible." He said they have sent in food and medicine.

Heavy rain blocked the way out

No one had heard from the group since they had entered the cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai on June 23rd. The team had visited the cave several times in the past to pray for good luck before a soccer match.

The 10-kilometer Tham Luang cave network is on a hillside. It is now rainy season in Thailand. It's believed the group entered the cave when it was still dry, then a sudden heavy rain blocked their way out.

Off and on rescue effort

The search for the group continued around the clock. More than a thousand specialists from the United States, Britain and other countries were helping. It was initially thought that they might have sought refuge on a mound nicknamed Pattaya Beach, about five kilometers from the entrance. Rescue divers made their way toward that location.

When they reached it on June 25th, they found it submerged under five meters of water. They couldn't go further, and a storm was making matters worse. The resulting downpour raised water levels inside the cave, forcing rescuers to frequently halt their search.

The country's Interior Minister said the rising muddy water was making it nearly impossible for divers to figure out where they were in the network of caves.

The dramatic moment

Things started to change for the better on Saturday. The rain was letting up. Rescue teams set up a base for the divers to be stocked with food and diving tanks.

At around 9:30 PM on July 2nd, a full 9 days after they went missing, the boys and their coach were found alive. They were on a ledge about 400 meters deeper into the cave from the submerged Pattaya Beach mound.

Thai television commentators have been speculating about how the group survived in the pitch dark. One said the human body facing a life-or-death crisis is programmed to rest and conserve energy. Thai media have interviewed friends of the boys, some of whom said the group had sweets and flashlights when they entered the cave.

Satoshi Goto is chairman of the Speleological Society of Japan, studying caves. Goto has explored caves in about 20 countries and has been involved in past rescue efforts.

He said he believed there was a strong possibility that the boys and their coach were alive. He said temperatures inside the cave are around the local, annual average. He said he believes the group survived because it was relatively warm inside the cave. He said the availability of water is another factor.

How to get them out

The next challenge for rescue teams is how to bring the group out. Water levels inside the cave are still high, and some experts say it is risky to have the boys swim out through the muddy water.

Goto suggests three options. They could wait until the water recedes, but that means staying put in the cave for another month or two, until the rainy season ends. Or, rescuers could drill a hole through to the group's location from the outside. This could take time and money if they can't quickly pinpoint the location.

A third option would require specially trained divers to carry the boys out on customized stretchers.

Some officials in the government have said they hope to have the boys and their coach out within a few days, but Thai navy officials have indicated that it could take several months.