Twelve boys and football coach missing in flooded Thai cave

Navy divers trying to reach chamber deep inside cave complex in Chiang Rai province

 

Twelve boys and their football coach are still missing after two days in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand, but officials remain hopeful they are still alive.

The boys, aged 11-15, are believed to have entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province with their 25-year-old coach on Saturday afternoon. A mother reported that her son did not return from practise that day, setting off the search.

Chote Narin, an officer at Mae Sai district police station, said: “We are still searching right now. We’ve found traces but no people yet.”

He said footprints and handprints were found inside the cave complex and officials believed the boys are still alive. He said the fact they were athletes should help them survive.

Navy divers were trying to reach a large chamber deep inside the cave complex where officials thought the students might be. The chamber is about 4km from the entrance of the cave, which is thought to be about 6-8km long.

“The team went down to a depth of five metres and found a large chamber ... but we’ve found no trace of the children,” the navy unit involved said on its Facebook page.

A navy commander overseeing the search said he was hopeful the boys and their coach would be rescued. “I believe they’re all still alive but they might be exhausted ... we should get good news today [Monday]\,” said rear admiral Arparkorn Yookongkaew.

The cave, cut into a mountainside in far northern Thailand near the border with Burma, is a local tourist attraction but can flood severely during Thailand’s rainy season, from June to October.

Rain continued to fall in the area on Monday afternoon and officials said parts of the cave were under at least 16ft of water.

Kamolchai Kotcha, an official at the forest park where the cave is located, said attempts to reach the chamber had failed as the passage is extremely small, “flooded and covered with sand and mud”.

Footage on Thai television showed bicycles, backpacks and football equipment left outside the entrance to the cave. The area was filled with soldiers and rescue personnel, while Buddhist monks offered prayers.

Mr Kamolchai said tourists trapped in the cave by past floods had been rescued after the water receded a few days later.– AP/Reuters