Cave search for Thai youth soccer team
25 Jun 2018

Difficult search for missing youth soccer team trapped in flooded cave system


A football team consisting of twelve young boys is believed to be stuck in a cave in northern Thailand. The road to the cave has been blocked after heavy rains and rescue efforts are temporarily suspended due to heavy rains.

Video by World News: Search and rescue teams from Thailand's navy on Monday (June 25) looked for 13 members of an under-16 soccer team believed to have been trapped in a cave in the country's northern Chiang Rai province since Saturday (June 23).

Television footage from local media showed the boys' bicycles and soccer shoes outside of the Tham Luang cave and members of the Royal Thai Navy Seals unit undertaking a search operation.

Local media also showed the boys' distressed relatives waiting near the cave.

"The diving team dove to a depth of 5 km and found a large chamber... but we have not found traces of the children yet," the Thai Navy Seal said on its Facebook page where officials have updated the public about the search operation.

Police said they believe the 12 boys and their 20-year-old coach were trapped after a heavy storm flooded the cave's entrance. Authorities were alerted when one of the boys' relatives reported a missing child. They later found bags belonging to the boys and their bicycles in front of the cave.


A motor cycle and 11 bikes were found at cave entrance

A motorcycle and eleven bikes were found outside the entrance to the cave located in Tham Luang Nang Non National Park in Chiang Rai Province, northern Thailand. Next to the bikes were soccer shoes and backpacks.

The local soccer club has confirmed that the objects found belong to the youth team missing since Saturday afternoon local time. The players are between eleven and sixteen years old.

The entrance to the cave has been blocked due to heavy rain. The authorities believe that the football team has entered the cave with his coach on Saturday. Just before they disappeared, a photo was uploaded on Facebook with the entire team gathered for the photo.

"At the moment, our family hopes that the children who are stuck in the cave are together and safe and that they are waiting for the authorities to come and save them. That's what I'm hoping for, says Noppadol Kantawong, father of one of the missing boys, to Thai PBS.


A model of the Thai cave
Rescuers are studying a table top model of the cave system, exploring various theories of where the boys might be.


"Think they are alive"

When the boys' belongings were found, the Navy Underwater Unit launched its rescue campaign, reported Bangkok Post.

"I think they are still alive but they may be exhausted and in shock. We should get good news today," said Arparkorn Yookongkaew, Commander of the Navy, to the Reuters news agency.

The rescue units have gone down to a level of five meters and investigated the cave, but so far no traces of the boys have been found.

During the rainy season, the entrance to the cave usually closes for safety reasons. Employees at the national park have been forced to cancel their search due to the large amounts of water.

The rising waters prompted the frustrated rescue team on Monday to move farther into the cave complex, which is thought to be about four to five miles (6-8km) long and contain large chambers. On Monday evening, officials made the call to temporarily pull out.

“We went in a few kilometers and were able to enter a second chamber behind the entrance. In that chamber, there was an area where I saw shoes and bags left behind on the ground. We believe the students have gone further in,” said Lt Naponwath Homsai, a Seal team member.


He said they would wait for water pumps to be brought in and that would hopefully help them access another passageway.

He said they would wait for water pumps to be brought in and that would hopefully help them access another passageway.

Officials remained optimistic the boys would be found safe.


The boys´ physical fitness will help them survive until help arrives

Chote Narin, an officer at Mae Sai district police station, said on Monday afternoon that footprints and handprints were found inside the cave complex.

"The fact that the boys are athletes should help them endure the situation", he said.

Despite heavy rain and rising waters, officials were hopeful there were still safe spaces in the cave complex, the deputy governor of Chiang Rai province, Passakorn Bunyalak, told a news conference.

Getting deeper into the cave has required oxygen and special diving skills, which would also complicate rescue efforts once the boys were found, Passakorn said.


"May need to teach the boys basic scuba diving to get them out"

He said divers might have to first bring food in and the boys might need to wait out the flood - or learn the basics of scuba to get out.

Officials said parts of the cave were flooded under at least five metres (16ft) of water.

Chote, of the Mae Sai police, said a helicopter was sent on Monday afternoon to survey at least one of the shafts.

Anukoon Sorn-ek, a geographer and expert on the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, said divers have made it about 1.8 miles (3km) into the complex. He said the cave maintains a relatively stable temperature of about 25C (77F).

He said the only way to get the boys out would be for them to dive. “But they have to be found first,” he added.