In Depth

Search continues for Thai youth football team trapped in cave

Rescuers are unsure where to look for the young players, who got stuck in a network of caves last Saturday

Packages containing food and water have been dropped through a natural shaft in the mountainside in an effort to reach 12 young men and their football coach trapped in a cave in Thailand.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, as well as their 25-year-old assistant coach from the Moo Pa football academy, “went missing on Saturday when they explored the six-mile Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai province”, reports Sky News.

With the main entrance to the cave flooded, professional divers, international rescue teams and Thai military personnel have been looking to find an alternative way in.

The natural chimney, which is around 1.5 meters in diameter and at least 22 meters (72 feet) deep, was found to the north of the opening of the cave, where the boys’ bikes were also found earlier this week.

The packages also contain a note addressed to the team, with Thai police colonel Kraiboon Sotsong saying: “If the children find this box we want them to float the box out of the cave.”

“The note says: 'If received, then reply and show on the map where you are. Everybody will quickly help.”

It is not known exactly where in the cave the group are trapped, “though footprints have been found inside the cave complex, sparking hope that the boys are still alive”, says the BBC.

According to CNN, rescue teams are now exploring the possibility that the natural shaft may connect with the caves below.

British caver Robert Harper told the broadcaster that, working off old surveys, the caving team “was attempting to access what is believed to be the end of the cave system, in an attempt to check a chamber off the list of places that they think the group might be”.

He said that the most difficult obstacle the caving team has faced so far was the “level of the water, and the power of the water”.

The cave, a popular tourist attraction in the region, is one of Thailand’s longest.

Vernon Unsworth, another British caver, told The Guardian he knew the cave intimately as he had been exploring its tunnels for six years. He said the conditions were “getting hostile”, and whether or not the boys were alive “depends where they are”.

He said: “If they’re in the right place they can survive for five or six days. But the water now, the floodwater, is getting higher and higher, so there will be a point in time where even this cave here, the entrance will close.”

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