Twelve boys and their football coach found alive after 10 days trapped deep inside a flooded cave will have to bear their ordeal for a while longer, as rescuers work out an exit plan, the governor of Chiang Rai province said on Tuesday (Jul 3).
The global rescue operation - which includes 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.
Reymenants said that the lion's share of the credit should go to the Thai special operations soldiers.
Despite the peril ahead, families and friends, some of whom have maintained a constant vigil outside the cave, hugged each other and cheered at the news.
The governor added that authorities are also trying to send food into the cave but were unsure if "they can eat it or not because it is nearly 10 days".
The SEALs' Facebook page said that since Sunday night, the divers had reached a bend where the kilometer-long (half-mile-long) passage splits in two directions. "We will take care of them until they can move".
Students pray in Mae Sai Prasitsart school as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach who went missing in a flooded cave continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 2, 2018. "We've been following the news, and I'm very glad, everybody's very glad that they found them".
"As of now, we have not yet reached Pattaya Beach", he said.
"I'm so glad. I want to him to be physically and mentally fit", said Tinnakorn Boonpiem, whose 12-year-old son Mongkol is among the rescued group.
The news comes just hours after footage was broadcast showing the moment the searchers discovered the group.
Meanwhile, diving experts have taken food and rejuvenative mineral salts so the boys and coach can rebuild their strength after 10 days with nearly no food or fresh water. Their bicycles, backpacks and soccer shoes were found near the cave's entrance.
The governor said they would keep draining the water from the cave while doctors and nurses would dive in to the cave to check the health of the boys and their coach.
"Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most risky situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy", he said. While some attempt to pump water out of the caves, divert nearby ground water or find an alternate opening that can give them access to the team.
"Above the cave, officials and volunteers were searching for shafts that might provide a back door into the cave". Several have been found and explorers have been able to descend into some. "I am not sure they can eat as they have not eaten for a while". After days of intense rain continued to flood the massive underground cave network, Monday's fairer weather allowed Thai Navy SEALs and foreign specialists to push through and locate the soccer team that disappeared with tiki torches and some food on June 23.