MAE SAI, Thailand—A top Thai official said today that heavy rains forecast for the coming days could worsen floods in the mountain cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach were located after being missing for more than a week, forcing authorities to speed up their extraction.
The 13 were located by rescue divers late last night in the cave in northern Chiang Rai province during a desperate search that drew international help and captivated the nation.
Officials said today that the boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach mostly were in stable medical condition and have received high-protein liquid food.
Interior minister Anupong Paojinda, a member of the country's ruling military junta, said today that the boys may need to swim out using diving equipment ahead of bad weather forecast for later in the week.
He said the boys would be brought out via the same complicated route through which their rescuers entered.
While efforts to pump out the floodwaters would continue, Anupong said it's clear some areas of the sprawling cave cannot be drained and that in order to get out, the boys may need to use diving gear while being guided by two professional divers each.
He conceded that if something went awry, it could be disastrous.
“Diving is not easy," Anupong stressed. ”For people who have never done it, it will be difficult, unlike diving in a swimming pool, because the cave's features have small channels.
“If something happens midway, it could be life-threatening.”
Video released early today by the Thai navy showed the boys in their soccer uniforms sitting on a dry area inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave above the water as a spotlight from a rescuer illuminated their faces.
Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said the health of the boys and coach were checked using a field assessment in which red is critical condition, yellow is serious, and green is stable.
“We found that most of the boys are in 'green' condition," he noted. ”Maybe some of the boys have injuries or light injuries and would be categorized as yellow condition.
“But no one is in red condition.”
Cave rescue experts have said it could be safer to simply supply them where they are for now, rather than trying to have the boys dive out.
That could take as long as months, however, given that Thailand's rainy season typically lasts through October.
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.