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Rescue teams on standby as Thai boys, coach trapped in cave await rescue

At least 13 divers have gone inside the cave, racing against time help the boys and their coach.

Thai police stand guard at the Tham Luang cave area as operations continue for the 12 boys and their coach trapped at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on 8 July 2018. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - More rescue teams are on standby near a cave in Thailand where 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach remain trapped.

At least 13 divers have gone inside the cave, racing against time help the boys and their coach.

Authorities say the rescue mission could take hours before the first boy emerges. Divers are expected to escort the boys through the tunnels one by one.

Once they reach the command center, the boys will be handed over to separate specialist rescue teams, who will assist them through chambers one and two. Rescue teams have been constantly pumping water out of the cave system, in a race against time before the return of heavy rain forecast for today.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their coach after soccer practice on 23 June, setting out on an adventure to explore the cave complex near the border with Myanmar and celebrate a boy’s birthday.

The rescue teams had rehearsed the plan for several days, Narongsak said, and they had to move now.

To escape, the boys must dive through dark, narrow passageways sometimes no more than 0.6 metre wide, that have challenged some of the world’s leading cave divers.

A former member of Thailand’s SEAL unit died during a dive early on Friday morning.

Authorities have said it takes roughly 11 hours to do a round-trip from the cave entrance to where the boys are huddled on a muddy bank.

An Australian doctor who is part of Sunday’s rescue mission checked the health of the boys on Saturday night and gave the all clear for the rescue to proceed.

Authorities said the rescue team included divers from “all around the world, mainly from Europe”.

British divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen discovered the boys on Monday. The British Cave Rescue Council said earlier this week they were sending five “key cave rescuers” to Thailand, some of whom were divers.

MEDICAL CARE

A local hospital in Thailand is reportedly being prepared for the eventual arrivals of the soccer team.

Photos of different stretchers can be seen lined up outside the entrance of the hospital in anticipation of their arrival.

Diving expert Dawie Schlebusch says if rainy weather persists, the operation may take longer than anticipated.

“There are about three water crossings, as they would call it, that the kids will need to dive through. The rest is almost dry ground they’ll be walking and hiking on. At this pace they’ll need to cover at least 2,5km.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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