Race against time for British divers trying to rescue boys from cave

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Boys from an under-16 soccer team and their coach wait to be rescued after they were trapped inside a flooded cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 3, 2018, in this still image taken from a Thai Navy Seal handout video.

The 12 boys and their coach are seen sitting with Thai navy SEALs in the dark cave with their visibly skinny faces illuminated by the beam of a flashlight.

Global rescue teams - which include the Thai Navy SEALs as well as experts from the US, China, Australia and the United Kingdom - had been working to reach a large, deep chamber, informally known as Pattaya Beach, where the missing boys were believed to have taken refuge. He assured reporters that rescuers "won't bring them out until we find a totally safe way", the Bangkok Post reported. The kids are all alive but weak, authorities said, and a medic was with them in the cave.

Hundreds of rescuers gather outside the cave Tuesday in Chiang Rai to help load equipment and aid efforts to rescue the 12 boys aged 11 to 16 and their 25-year-old coach. She said she would cook her son a Thai fried omelet, his favorite food, when he returns home.

Family members who have kept vigil at the mouth of the cave since their ordeal began June 23 rejoiced at the news that their boys and their coach had been found.

The Prime Minister's Office says Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha "wishes to thank the tremendous efforts of all worldwide units that have come to assist the Thai authorities in rescuing the youth football team that was stuck in the caves in Chiang Rai".

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That appears to be what happened here: The boys and their coach walked into the cave, and then the rain came.

"Thank you", responded one of the boys.

They were found on Monday after nine days trapped deep in the cave by rising water, and have since received food and medical treatment.

In the meantime, a phone line is being installed inside the cave so the young soccer players can finally talk to their relieved parents after being separated for more than 10 days.

Mr Reymenants said the journey into the cave "was very taxing" for the boys and the search for them was "one of the most extreme cave dives" he's done.

The main problem facing the rescue operation is the weather.

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Everything depends on how hard the dives are. In footage that emerged after the boys were found by two British divers late Monday one asks to "go outside".

But one of the rescuers who found the group said after days without eating or moving, they may not be ready for a dive rescue, even with extensive support.

Parts of the cave are filled with high, murky waters and other sections are so narrow that the diving gear barely fit through the gaps. After more than a week without food, they have lost energy and muscle.

The SEALs' Facebook page said that since Sunday night, the divers had reached a bend where the half-mile passage splits in two directions.

The boys were discovered at about 10:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) Monday by British divers some 400 meters (1,300 feet) from where they were believed to be stranded several kilometers inside the cave. While Monday was relatively dry, by Tuesday the rains had started to steadily fall once again and while huge pumps are working overtime to bring the water levels down in the cave complex, any downpour could potentially set back efforts to bring the children out safely. The Thai navy captain Anand Surawan has previously said: "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".

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