Divers battle floodwater in Thai cave search

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MAE SAI, Thailand, June 29, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Divers trying to reach 12
boys trapped in a Thai cave battled fast-flowing floodwaters Friday as their
desperate search for survivors entered a sixth day.

Heavy rains that have battered the area are complicating the enormous
rescue effort sending tonnes of water gushing through the complex.

Emergency workers say torrents have filled two chambers, blocking the route
to the spot where the youngsters and their football coach might have
retreated.

The darkness inside the Tham Luang cave in northern Chiang Rai province is
being compounded by the muddy water, reducing visibility to just a few
centimetres (inches), in conditions some rescuers have likened to swimming in
cold coffee.

Thailand’s junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha arrived in the area early Friday
to console desperate families who have camped outside the cave since the boys
went missing on Saturday.

The harrowing search for the boys, aged 11 to 16, which was suspended for
several hours Thursday was resumed when rescuers were able to drill a
makeshift drain.

“They went in yesterday and they dived for several hours,” Chiang Rai
governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told AFP.

Several water pumps were set up to get water away from the site and an
additional 40 were being shipped in from Bangkok Friday, he added.

Other teams scoured the mountain for places to bore a hole through the
cave’s roof without causing a collapse.

“It’s possible in theory but could be hard because the (drill) machine
weighs two tonnes, so we have to figure out how to lift it and where to place
it,” Narongsak said.

Three British divers and a team of US experts are at the scene to help some
1,000 Thai Navy, Army and Airforce personnel, along with police and border
guards dispatched to find the young football team and their 25-year-old
coach.

The British team found four potential entry points into the cave on
Thursday, one of which was “promising”, the governor said.

The youngsters from the “Boar” football academy went in the cave after
practice on Saturday and became trapped when heavy rains blocked the main
entrance.

Search teams found their bicycles, backpacks and football boots near the
opening.

Officials said the group has been in cave many times before and know the
site well.

A sign at the entrance warns visitors not to enter the cave during rainy
season between July and November, when the risk of flooding runs high.

At 10 kilometres (six miles) long, Tham Luang cave near the Laos and
Myanmar borders is one of Thailand’s longest.

It is also one of the most difficult to navigate because of its narrow
passageways and winding series of tunnels.

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