Search underway for teenage soccer team trapped in Thai cave

Rescue teams are working with divers to find the 12 boys who are aged 11 to 15

Rescue teams are working with divers to find the 12 boys who are aged 11 to 15

A mother who reported her son never returned from soccer practice that day set off the search.

Eleven boys have their photo taken before they entered the cave in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district on Saturday and disappeared. Officials believed they and their 25-year-old coach may have been cut off by rising flood water in a curved section of the cave about three kilometres from the main entrance.

Police said that local authorities, police and rescue workers were working with divers to find the 12 boys, aged 11-15, and their coach, who are believed to have entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province late Saturday afternoon.

Police Col. Komsan Saardluan told the Associated Press that waters in the four- to five-mile-long cave system can reach 16 feet during the rainy season from June through October. They have found no trace of the boys or male coach except for handprints on a cave wall.

Heavy monsoon rains have hit the region in recent days, causing the cave to rapidly fill with water, and bicycles and shoes belonging to the boys were found soon afterwards at the cave's entrance.

Footage on Thai television showed bikes and backpacks left at the cave entrance.

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Relatives of the group on Monday prayed for their safe return.

"I believe they're all still alive but they might be exhausted", Rear Admiral Arparkorn Yookongkaew told the wire service. He said the fact that they're athletes should help them endure the situation. But we still can not locate the kids.

During an attempt at dawn on Monday, divers were unable to reach a large chamber deep inside the cave where the students might be, said an official at the forest park in Chiang Rai province where the cave is located.

Local media reported that the team is believed to have entered the cave after a practice session, before a flash flood trapped them in the rock structure as rising waters blocked their exit.

In The Caves of Northern Thailand, an online guidebook last updated this year, the cave is described as only explorable from November to June due to flooding.

A search operation on Sunday also failed to turn up any sign of the team members.

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