Tue, Jun 26, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Thai officials believe 12 boys missing in cave are still alive

AP, MAE SAI, Thailand

Rescuers yesterday search inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, where 13 members of an under-16 soccer team are trapped.

Photo: Reuters

Multiple attempts to locate 12 boys and their soccer coach missing in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand for nearly two days have failed, but officials yesterday said they believe that they are still alive.

The boys, aged 11 to 15, are believed to have entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province with their 25-year-old coach late on Saturday afternoon.

A mother reported that her son did not return from soccer practice that day, setting off the search.

“We are still searching right now,” Chote Narin, an officer with the Mae Sai district police, said yesterday afternoon. “We’ve found traces, but no people yet.”

He said that footprints and handprints were found inside the cave complex, and that officials believe the boys are still alive.

That they are athletes should help them endure the situation, he added.

US Navy SEAL 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 6km to 8km long.

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

Rain continued to fall in the area yesterday afternoon and officials said that parts of the cave were flooded under at least 5m of water.

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

“Right now, our family is hoping that the children trapped inside will have formed a group and are safe and waiting for officials to go in and save them in time,” Noppadol Kantawong, the father of one of the missing boys, told Thai PBS television on Sunday.

“That’s what I’m hoping,” Noppadol added.

Thai television showed bicycles, backpacks and soccer cleats left at the entrance of the cave. The area was filled with soldiers and rescue personnel. Buddhist monks offered prayers.

Tourists trapped in the cave by past floods have been rescued after the water receded a few days later, Kamolchai said.

A helicopter was sent yesterday afternoon to survey at least one of the cave’s shafts, Chote told reporters.

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