Mammoth medical operation awaits trapped Thai cave boys

CHIANG RAI, July 7 (Reuters) - Thirteen fully staffed medical teams stand ready round the clock outside a cave in Thailand -- each with its own helicopter and ambulance -- one for each of 12 boys and their coach trapped inside as a daring rescue gathers pace.

With oxygen levels dropping and rainstorms forecast, time is running out on a plan to teach the boys - some as young as 11 and not strong swimmers - to make a dive through narrow, waterlogged passageways that would challenge experienced cavers.

Medical staff involved in the mission told Reuters their first assessments will focus on the boy's breathing, signs of hypothermia and an airborne lung infection known as 'cave disease' which is caused by bat and bird droppings and can be fatal if it is untreated and spreads to other parts of the body.

Authorities have not ruled out laying an oxygen line and leaving the boys inside for months until monsoon rains clear if their efforts over the next few days fail.

49 PHOTOS
Members of Thai children's soccer team found alive at Tham Luang caves
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Members of Thai children's soccer team found alive at Tham Luang caves
Rescue teams search the Tham Luang caves for 13 members of an under-16 soccer team, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
Rescue teams search the Tham Luang caves for 13 members of an under-16 soccer team, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
Relatives pray outside the Tham Luang caves, where 13 members of an-under 16 soccer team are trapped, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
Thai military personnel and rescuers are seen outside the Tham Luang caves, where 13 members of an-under 16 soccer team are trapped, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
Soldiers read a map near the Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Chayut Setboonsarng
A military personnel is seen inside of the Tham Luang caves where 13 members of an under-16 soccer team were trapped in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
Rescue workers are seen inside of the Tham Luang caves where 13 members of an under 16 soccer team were trapped in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
Journalists work in Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A family member cries near Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Family members pass their time near Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Christian volunteers pray near the Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A soldier hold a map as he works near the Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
British diver Richard William Stanton arrives to the Tham Luang caves during a search for the members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Rescue workers work near the Tham Luang caves during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Thailand's Prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha clean wipes sweat from his face as he meets with family members near the Tham Luang cave complex during an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Soldiers unload aids near the Tham Luang cave complex, as a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Soldiers and rescue workers work in Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 1, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A soldier walks in Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 1, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A diver walks in Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 1, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Soldiers and rescue workers work in Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 1, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A military helicopter lands near Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 1, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A military helicopter take off near Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand July 1, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Soldiers and rescue workers work near Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A spirit and Buddha state image are seen in front of a cave near Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Soldiers and rescue workers work near Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Divers equipment is seen near Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
An ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, near Tham Luang cave complex, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Journalists try to interview a military officer near the Tham Luang cave complex, as members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach have been found alive, according to a local media's report, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
TOPSHOT - Indian schoolchildren hold placards and pictures during a prayer event for the safe rescue of young football players and their coach stuck in a cave in Thailand, in Ahmedabad on July 9, 2018. - Rescue workers dived deep inside a flooded Thai cave for a second straight day on July 9 in a treacherous bid to save a group of young footballers, with the mission chief promising more 'good news' after four of the 13 were saved. (Photo by SAM PANTHAKY / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)
CHIANG RAI, THAILAND - JULY 9: Classmates of Adul, one of the boys trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non cave, visit a tribute for the Wild Boars soccer team at the entrance of Ban Waingphan school on July 9, 2018 in Chiangrai, Thailand. Divers began an effort to pull the 12 boys and their soccer coach on Sunday morning after they were found alive in the cave at northern Thailand. Videos released by the Thai Navy SEAL shows the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach are in good health in Tham Luang Nang Non cave and the challenge now will be to extract the party safely. (Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)
CHIANG RAI, THAILAND - JULY 9: Classmates of Adul, one of the boys trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non cave, visit a tribute for the Wild Boars soccer team at the entrance of Ban Waingphan school on July 9, 2018 in Chiangrai, Thailand. Divers began an effort to pull the 12 boys and their soccer coach on Sunday morning after they were found alive in the cave at northern Thailand. Videos released by the Thai Navy SEAL shows the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach are in good health in Tham Luang Nang Non cave and the challenge now will be to extract the party safely. (Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)
CHIANG RAI, THAILAND - JULY 10: A helicopter transport boys rescued from Tham Luang Nang Non cave from a cave to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital on July 10, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Divers began an effort to free the 12 boys and their soccer coach on Sunday morning after they were found alive in the cave at northern Thailand. Videos released by the Thai Navy SEAL shows the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach are in good health in Tham Luang Nang Non cave and the challenge now will be to extract the party safely. (Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)
An ambulance exits from the Tham Luang cave area as operations continue for the 8 boys and their coach trapped at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 9, 2018. - Four boys among the group of 13 trapped in a flooded Thai cave for more than a fortnight were rescued on July 8 after surviving a treacherous escape, raising hopes elite divers would also save the others soon. (Photo by YE AUNG THU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai policemen secure the road leading to Tham Luang cave area as rescue operations continue for those still trapped inside the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 9, 2018. - Four boys among the group of 13 trapped in a flooded Thai cave for more than a fortnight were rescued on July 8 after surviving a treacherous escape, raising hopes elite divers would also save the others soon. (Photo by YE AUNG THU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
A sand art about Thailand boys rescue tragedy is seen at the Bay of Bengal Sea's eastern coast beach, creating by Indian sand artist Sudarshan Pattnik for public awareness at Puri 65 km away from the eastern Indian state Odisha's capital city Bhubaneswar, on July 10, 2018. (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Police and military personnel use umbrellas to cover around a stretcher near a helicopter and an ambulance at a military airport in Chiang Rai on July 9, 2018, as rescue operations continue for those still trapped inside the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district. - Four boys among the group of 13 trapped in a flooded Thai cave for more than a fortnight were rescued on July 8 after surviving a treacherous escape, raising hopes elite divers would also save the others soon. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Thai soldiers walk out from the Tham Luang cave area as operations continue for the 8 boys and their coach trapped at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 9, 2018. - Four boys among the group of 13 trapped in a flooded Thai cave for more than a fortnight were rescued on July 8 after surviving a treacherous escape, raising hopes elite divers would also save the others soon. (Photo by YE AUNG THU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai police monitor a press conference by officials at Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital in Chiang Rai on July 10, 2018 as the rescue for a group of boys and their coach trapped in a cave in nearby Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park continues. - Rescuers raced to save four young footballers and their coach who remain trapped in a flooded Thai cave on July 10, as heavy rains threatened an already perilous escape mission that has seen eight of the boys extracted in 'good health'. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
A nurse adjusts her facemask at Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital in Chiang Rai on July 10, 2018, as the rescue for a group of boys and their coach trapped in a cave in nearby Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park continues. - Rescuers raced to save four young footballers and their coach who remain trapped in a flooded Thai cave on July 10, as heavy rains threatened an already perilous escape mission that has seen eight of the boys extracted in 'good health'. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the media report from a hill near the Tham Luang cave area as the operations continue for those still trapped inside the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 10, 2018. - Rescuers raced to save four young footballers and their coach who remain trapped in a flooded Thai cave on July 10, as heavy rains threatened an already perilous escape mission that has seen eight of the boys extracted in 'good health'. (Photo by YE AUNG THU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
An ambulance leaves the Tham Luang cave area as operations continue for those still trapped inside the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 10, 2018. - Rescuers raced to save four young footballers and their coach who remain trapped in a flooded Thai cave on July 10, as heavy rains threatened an already perilous escape mission that has seen eight of the boys extracted in 'good health'. (Photo by YE AUNG THU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
A Thai military police salutes an ambulance leaving from the Tham Luang cave area as the operations continue for those still trapped inside the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 10, 2018. - Rescuers raced to save four young footballers and their coach who remain trapped in a flooded Thai cave on July 10, as heavy rains threatened an already perilous escape mission that has seen eight of the boys extracted in 'good health'. (Photo by YE AUNG THU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
CHIANG RAI, THAILAND - JULY 10: Onlookers watch and cheer as ambulances transport the 10th rescued schoolboy from a helipad nearby to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital on July 10, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Divers began an effort to free the 12 boys and their soccer coach on Sunday morning after they were found alive in the cave at northern Thailand. Thai Navy SEALs have confirmed that the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach have now all been extracted safely. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)
CHIANG RAI, THAILAND - JULY 10: Onlookers watch and cheer as ambulances transport the 10th rescued schoolboy from a helipad nearby to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital on July 10, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Divers began an effort to free the 12 boys and their soccer coach on Sunday morning after they were found alive in the cave at northern Thailand. Thai Navy SEALs have confirmed that the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach have now all been extracted safely. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)
CHIANG RAI, THAILAND - JULY 10: Onlookers watch and cheer as ambulances transport some of the rescued schoolboys from a helipad to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital on July 10, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Thai Navy SEALs confirmed on Tuesday that the 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach have now all been extracted safely 17 days after they got trapped underground alive in a cave in northern Thailand. The boys of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach are to spend at least a week in a hospital in Chiang Rai Province and remain under observation due to a risk of rare infections. (Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)
Volunteers celebrate at a makeshift press centre in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 10, 2018, after the twelve boys and their football coach were rescued. - The final five members of a young football team were rescued from a flooded Thai cave on July 10, after spending 18 harrowing days trapped deep inside, completing an astonishing against-the-odds rescue mission that captivated the world. (Photo by Ye Aung THU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman reacts near a hospital where the children's football team members are treated after being rescued, in Chiang Rai on July 10, 2018. - All 12 boys and their football coach trapped in a cave in northern Thailand for more than a fortnight have been rescued in an unprecedented three-day mission that had all the features of a blockbuster film. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn (2L) greets journalists during his news conference near Tham Luang cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Journalists celebrate before a news conference near Tham Luang cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
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"We have set up 13 teams for each of the children," said Major General Pramote Imwattana of the Army Medical Department in charge of the medical operation at the Tham Luang cave complex near Thailand's northern border with Myanmar.

Each boy will have a devoted medical unit consisting of at least one doctor, two nurses, a paramedic and an ambulance, one medic told Reuters, on condition of anonymity because she wasn't allowed to speak to media.

After the initial assessment, the group will be driven by ambulances to makeshift helipads and airlifted to the Chang Rai hospital some 70km away, Pramote said.

"It takes 10 minutes to get from our field medical tent to the helipad and about 15 minute in the air to the hospital."

 

PREPARING

Medics have been conducting regular drills at the camp, ferrying would-be patients in stretchers hundreds of meters through thick mud from the cave's entrance to the road where the ambulances -- assembled from across the country -- wait.

Videos of the boys after their discovery on Monday showed them looking frail, thin and exhausted. But they appear to have remained in good spirits, and the head of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osottanakorn said Saturday that the boys' health was the "best yet" as were the conditions to spring them to safety.

Heartfelt letters delivered by divers from the boys to their family waiting outside the cave on Saturday spoke of them feeling healthy and strong and wanting to go home.

Getting to the muddy bank where the boys sought refuge takes a nearly 11-hour round trip through 4 km (2.5 miles) of winding submerged pathways and fast-flowing freezing water.

The death of a former Thai Navy seal who fell unconscious during a dive in the cave on Friday, underscores the challenge that awaits the boys.

"Hypothermia is the scariest condition. The body temperature drops as the water is very cold," said the medic, adding that a whole section of the hospital had been set aside for the boy's treatment.

"But what we're most concerned with is infections. There are all kinds of diseases in the cave, from bats, from dirty water. Everything in there is very dirty."

She said histoplasmosis, also known as "cave disease" was one concern as was leptospirosis, an infection caused by bacteria which can lead to severe bleeding from the lungs or even meningitis.

When Chilean miners were rescued after more than two months trapped underground in 2010, some were suffering from pneumonia, lung conditions from inhaling dust and dental and eye problems.

Aside from the physical illness, there is also the psychological strain of living in the dark hundreds of meters underground. Insomnia, depression and post-traumatic stress will all have to be monitored in the weeks after.

41 PHOTOS
Thai soccer team trapped in cave
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Thai soccer team trapped in cave
CHIANG RAI, THAILAND - JUNE 28: A giant driller is brought to the entrance of Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the effort of drilling into the mountain to find a way to approach the missing boys on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Rescuers battle heavy rain in northern Thailand as they continued the search for 12 boys and their soccer coach who has been missing in Tham Luang Nang Non cave since Saturday night after monsoon rains blocked the main entrance. Teams of Navy SEAL divers worked their way through submerged passageways in the sprawling underground caverns as senior Thai government officials warned on Wednesday that time is running out and the search intensifies for the young soccer team, aged between 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach, with soldiers and park rangers seeking other entry points into the cave system. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)
Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai rescue personnel arrive at the Tham Luang cave to conduct operations to find the missing members of the children's football team in a cave chamber along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 25, 2018. - A dramatic underwater rescue mission to find a children's football team who have been trapped in a flooded cave for two days was underway in northern Thailand, officials said June 25. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members and relatives pray as they keep vigil near the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 while rescue personnel conduct operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai rescue personnel carry oxygen tanks inside Tham Luang cave to conduct operations to find the missing members of the children's football team along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai rescue personnel gather at the entrance of Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members and relatives pray at the entrance of Tham Luang cave while rescue personnel conduct operations to find the missing members of the children's football team along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN / various sources / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members and relatives pray as they keep vigil near the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 while rescue personnel conduct operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai soldiers carry equipment into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative shows the photograph of missing Adorn Sanorn, 14, as family members keep vigil near Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 while rescue personnel conduct operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai soldiers carry equipment into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members and relatives wait outside the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members and relatives pray close to the entrance of Tham Luang cave while rescue personnel conduct operations to find the missing members of the children's football team along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 26, 2018. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members and relatives pray at the entrance of Tham Luang cave while rescue personnel conduct operations to find the missing members of the children's football team along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach. - Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members and relatives pray at the entrance of Tham Luang cave while rescue personnel conduct operations to find the missing members of the children's football team along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 26, 2018. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Bicycles belonging to members of a children's football team, who are trapped in a cave chamber along with their coach, are seen as Thai rescue personnel (background) conduct operations under floodlights at the entrance to Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 25, 2018. - A dramatic underwater rescue mission to find a children's football team who have been trapped in a flooded cave for two days was underway in northern Thailand, officials said June 25. (Photo by Krit Promsakla Na Sakolnakorn / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)
Bicycles belonging to members of a children's football team, who are trapped in a cave chamber along with their coach, are seen as Thai rescue personnel (background) conduct operations under floodlights at the entrance to Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 25, 2018. - A dramatic underwater rescue mission to find a children's football team who have been trapped in a flooded cave for two days was underway in northern Thailand, officials said June 25. (Photo by Krit Promsakla Na Sakolnakorn / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members carrying flower offering for prayers arrive with Thai rescue personnel near the Tham Luang cave to conduct operations to find the missing members of the children's football team in a cave chamber along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 25, 2018. - A dramatic underwater rescue mission to find a children's football team who have been trapped in a flooded cave for two days was underway in northern Thailand, officials said June 25. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)
The abandoned bicycles belonging to the missing children are seen parked together while Thai rescue personnel conduct rescue operations under floodlights, seen in the background, at the entrance of Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province on June 26, 2018 as the search continue for the 12 children and their coach. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue workers are seen in Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Personnel work near Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Rescue workers work near Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Rescue workers work near Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Soldiers are seen at the Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Soldiers and rescue workers carry water pipes to the Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Soldiers and rescue workers carry a water pump to the Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
CHIANG RAI, THAILAND - JUNE 28: British cave-diver Richard William Stanton walks out from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in full kit without any response to reporter's questions on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Rescuers battled heavy rain in northern Thailand as they continued the search for 12 boys and their soccer coach who have been missing in Tham Luang Nang Non cave since Saturday night after monsoon rains blocked the main entrance. Teams of Navy SEAL divers worked their way through submerged passageways in the sprawling underground caverns as senior Thai government officials warned on Wednesday that time is running out and the search intensifies for the young soccer team, aged between 11 to 16, and their their 25-year-old coach, with soldiers and park rangers seeking other entry points into the cave system. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)
Rescue workers are seen near Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
U.S. military personnel come out from Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
U.S. military personnel come out from Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Rescue workers bring out a family member from the Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Soldiers work near Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A Buddhist monk and relatives pray near Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A rescue worker sits in front of the Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A family member cries near Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Family members pass their time near Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
A family member carries flowers to pray near the Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
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(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panu Wongcha-un Writing by John Geddie Editing by Peter Graff)

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