Thailand cave boys: Football team practicing with dive masks

Youth football team trapped deep inside a cave has been practicing wearing dive masks, Thai official says.

    New video footage of the Thai football team trapped deep inside a cave shows the boys laughing and saying they are doing well, 11 days after they went missing. 

    A video posted on the Facebook page of the Thai navy SEALs on Wednesday depicts the pale, thin boys, many of them wrapped in foil warming blankets, introducing themselves and saying they are "in good health". 

    There is laughter at the end of the one-minute video when one of the footballers notes he was skipped in the round of introductions. 

    Two more videos posted on the Royal Thai Navy Facebook page show divers treating minor wounds and some of the boys smiling while others sleep underneath their blankets. 

    Watching the footage outside of the cave, a mother of one of the boys teared up, AFP news agency reported. "He is thinner," she said.

    The 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were found on Monday evening, nine days after getting stuck inside the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai province after floods caused by heavy rains blocked its entrance.

    Their discovery sparked jubilation across Thailand, but extracting them from the flooded cave could still take weeks, if not months.

    'No risk'

    On Wednesday, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said that the team has been practising wearing diving masks and breathing.

    He said it was unlikely an extraction would be attempted on Wednesday.

    "We have to be 100-percent confident that there is no risk to the boys before we evacuate," Narongsak told reporters.

    "We will take care of them like they are our own children."

    Narongsak said that the team may be taken out in stages depending on their health. He also said that food, medicine and relief gear continued to be brought into the cave.

    Narrow corridors and sprawling passageways make the 10km Tham Luang cave system difficult to navigate [Al Jazeera English]

    Diving out of the cave system is one of the options that has been floated for extraction of the football team, but, as Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler reports from Chiang Rai, it's "very, very risky". 

    "It's a very technical and difficult dive with narrow passageways, murky water and currents," Heidler said. 

    "Experienced cave divers have said it's a very technical and difficult dive for them, so you can imagine what it's going to be like for some of these boys who maybe don't even know how to swim."

    The football team has been practising wearing diving masks [Pongmanat Tasiri/EPA-EFE]

    Alternative options under consideration are finding a way to access the team's location through a shaft in the mountain or waiting for water levels to drop until they can walk out.

    With monsoon season typically lasting until October, that could still take months.

    New video footage showed the boys introducing themselves and saying they were in 'good health' [Royal Thai Navy/EPA-EFE]

    On Wednesday, navy SEALs were trying again to run a fibre optic internet line which would enable phone calls to the ledge where the football team is waiting for rescue, AP news agency reported.

    A similar effort on Tuesday had failed after the equipment was damaged by water.

    Authorities also continued to pump water around the clock in hopes of bringing water levels down in the cave.

    The fresh monsoon rains forecasted could add a further complication to an already tricky rescue operation. 

    'How many are you? Thirteen? Brilliant'

    A British team of divers were the first to reach the boys and their coach on Monday evening at about 10:00pm (15:00 GMT). 

    "How many are you? Thirteen? Brilliant," a diver is heard saying in video footage that shows the moment the boys were found perched on a ledge inside the cave complex. 

    There had been no contact with the team since they got trapped inside on June 23.

    "I can't express how I feel. It's stunning and I'm very proud - I never expected this day to come," Adisak Wongsukchan, the father of one of the boys, said after the boys were found.

    It took divers days to make painstaking advances in the dark, flooded cave, with rising waters at times forcing them to retreat.

    The 12 boys belong to the local Moo Pa, or Wild Boar, football team and their coach had taken them on field trips before.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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