Thai schoolboys not ready for underwater escape

International rescuers team prepare to enter the cave where a young soccer team and their coach trapped by flood waters Thursday

International rescuers team prepare to enter the cave where a young soccer team and their coach trapped by flood waters Thursday

Rescuers, including global teams, are pondering other ways to bring the group out before heavy rains hit the country's north next week which could further hamper the rescue operation.

There was also a disheartening setback Friday with the death of a former Thai navy SEAL diving in flooded passageways to deliver oxygen supplies. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days as the only way to reach them was by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.

Speaking at a press conference, a commander of the Thai navy SEAL group said the retired navy SEAL was placing oxygen tanks along an exit route to assist the boys in their escape from the cave when his own oxygen ran out.

Arpakorn told reporters, "I can guarantee that we will not panic, we will not stop our mission, we will not let the sacrifice of our friend go to waste", according to the BBC.

Rescuers carry supplies into the Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 5, 2018.

Narongsak said they would have to drill through 600 metres (1970 feet) of fragile limestone rock to reach the boys and were discussing drilling angles.

One recovery strategy the rescuers have been pursuing includes fitting the group with full-face oxygen masks and accompanying them on a long, unsafe swim through the narrow, pitch-black tunnels. The kids, some of whom can't even swim, are expected to wear scuba gear, with experienced divers by their side at all times. "There is limited time", Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue mission and Chiang Rai's former governor, told a midnight media briefing.

However, the "swim out" option appears the most viable, if not also the most risky, solution.

More specialist divers from the United Kingdom will arrive in the next 24 hours to assist the rescue effort. "I believe the training has already started".

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The diver, identified as Saman Kunan, died from lack of oxygen at 1 a.m. on Friday.

Narongsak Osotthanakorn said the health of most of the boys had "improved to normal", and that divers were continuing to teach diving and breathing techniques.

Their work above the Tham Luang cave near Thailand's northern border with Myanmar took on added urgency as forecasts for rain threatened a plan to bring the boys back through cramped, waterlogged passageways to the cave entrance.

The huge operation to rescue them involves dozens of Thai Navy SEALs, and experts and volunteer divers from parts of Europe and Asia, as well as Australia and the US. They need to learn some basics.

As the monsoon rains begin, water is being pumped out of the caves and a plan is being developed to bring them to safety.

But the number of rescue workers staying with the team in the chamber had been reduced from 10 people to five because of the lowered oxygen levels.

Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind the Tesla automobile and the SpaceX rocket company, has said he would send engineers to help.

The members of the Wild Boar soccer team were reported missing on June 23 when they didn't return from an outing after soccer practice. "We still have to wait and see what happens next, and whether the water level will rise again".

But Thailand's Navy Seal commander suggested on Thursday that the divers may now have little choice but to attempt a daring emergency rescue - fraught with danger for the boys, who are aged 11 to 16 and some of whom can not swim.

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