Young soccer players found in a partially flooded Thai cave had better learn to dive soon - or they could be trapped for months by oncoming rains, officials warned Tuesday. While there has been great relief and celebrations across the country at the news that all 12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach are alive and in relatively good health, removing them from the cave network safely presents huge challenges for the global rescue dive teams.
The missing youth soccer team trapped in a cave in Northern Thailand have been found after heavy rain and flooding complicated the frantic search effort. The cave floods during Thailand's rainy season and even elite Thai navy SEAL divers were finding it hard to move through the muddy waters, currents and tight passageways. Other options included teaching the group to use diving gear to navigate the flooded cave.
Any more rainfall could raise water levels inside the cave, making it harder for the team to get out but Thailand is now in its rainy season. The 13 individuals have received medical treatment and food, but the question is - how can they be rescued safely?
Worldwide 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.
They were found on a rock shelf about 4km from the mouth of the cave. The tunnels open into wider chambers, and it's in one of those chambers that the boys were found.
In the video, an unidentified diver, speaking with a British accent, urges the group to stay calm and says "many, many people are coming. we are the first". "Maybe some of the boys have injuries or light injuries and would be categorized as yellow condition".
Seven divers, including a doctor and a nurse, joined the group inside the caves in the north of the country after they were discovered alive on Monday. When will they get out of the cave?
"I want to hug my son... usually our family sleep in the same bed together".
In the five-minute navy video, the boys are quiet as they sit on their haunches, legs bent in front of them.
"We haven't eaten", a boy said in Thai, then in English: "We have to eat, eat, eat!" They had been exploring the cave network with their soccer coach on June 23, when heavy seasonal rains flooded the cave's entrance.
Edd Sorenson, of International Cave Rescue and Recovery, told BBC News that swimming out of the cave is "extremely dangerous" and it would be safer for the boys to wait because they may panic in the water.
Thai authorities have said that the military will make the final decision on how the group are rescued. Waters in the cave must recede to safe levels before the boys can be safely extracted, experts say. They are clad in the uniforms they apparently were wearing on the morning they disappeared in the cave.
Everything depends on how hard the dives are.
"Few cave divers in the world have the skills and equipment to follow this man, and the nearest were Richard and John", the society's account said. An official Australian group has followed a US military team, British cave experts, Chinese lifesaving responders and several other volunteer groups from various countries. "10 days. You are very strong".