Thai divers advance through cave in search of missing boys

Navy divers navigate through dark, flooded passages in hopes of reaching trapped football team eight days into search.

    Thai navy divers still had to navigate through three more kilometres of flooded passages to reach a potential safe spot in a vast cave complex where 12 boys and their football coach have been trapped for more than a week.

    On Sunday, the governor of Thailand's northern province Chiang Rai, Narongsak Osottanakorn, told reporters that Thai Navy SEALs were getting closer to a chamber in the Tham Luang Cave where rescuers hope they will find the team. 

    There has not been any contact with the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach since they were trapped in the cave on June 23. 

    The team had gone to explore the cave after football practice but were trapped when flood waters from heavy rains blocked the main entrance.

    On Saturday night, divers came the furthest to reaching an elevated rock mound within the cave named Pattaya Beach so far, advancing 200 metres beyond where they were stymied before, Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler reported.  

    "They are trying to get there because they believe that could be a spot where the boys and their coach might have retreated to when flood waters came rushing into the cave system," Heidler said.

    "We also know that teams are still working for a way in from the top in the hills that encase this massive system."

    Flooded and dark

    Rear Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, who commands Thailand's elite Navy SEAL unit, on Sunday said divers had reached "chamber three" of the cave complex. 

    Earlier in the week, the divers had been forced back from the chamber by rising floodwaters. 

    "From chamber three to the intersection and then onto Pattaya Beach, this area is all flooded and dark," Apakorn told reporters, adding that the distance still to cover is about three kilometres. 

    Dr Somsak Akkasilp, director general of the Medical Services Department, told Reuters news agency the group's survival depended on whether they found fresh drinking water. 

    He was concerned about the risk of infection from unclean water, Reuters reported.

    Parents hopeful

    Heidler reported that parents have remained positive despite the lack of information on how their sons are doing. 

    Namhom Boonpium is the mother of 13-year-old Mongkon. 

    "He's a good boy. He lived to play football since he was small," she told Al Jazeera. 

    "I never thought anything like this would happen. Because whenever he would leave home, he'd always ask for permission." 

    For the first few days after Mongkon went missing, his mother just cried. She has only just started eating again, Heidler reported. Now, she is taking strength from the other parents of the missing boys.

    "I feel much better now. And the support is making me stronger. I have to be strong, but I wish my son comes out today," she said. 

    Seven countries, including the US, Australia and Japan, have joined the rescue operation. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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