Mae Sai, Thailand.- The adolescent soccer players trapped for two weeks in a partially flooded cave in northern Thailand don’t want their parents to worry. And they also wouldn’t mind having some fried chicken ready for when they get home.
That’s what’s on the minds of the 12 boys, ages 11-16, according to handwritten notes they sent out with divers who made an 11-hour, back-and-forth journey to act as postmen.
The boys and their 25-year-old coach have been trapped since June 23, when they went exploring in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave after a practice game. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days.
The only way to reach them was by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygendepleted air. Getting out via the same route looks like the only feasible option, but a high-risk one, Thai officials say.
Experienced cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving, as the boys are. The path out is considered especially complicated because of twists and turns in narrow flooded passages.
The local governor supervising the rescue mission said Saturday that mild weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created appropriate conditions for an underwater evacuation, but that they won’t last if it rains again.
Thai officials are stressing that they may have to act very soon — meaning the next couple of days — if weather forecasts are correct because of the possibility that access to the cave could soon close again due to flooding from seasonal monsoon rains. Earlier efforts to pump out water from the cave have been set back every time there has been a heavy downpour.
Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said that experts told him flooding from new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square meters (108 square feet).