Rain hampers efforts to reach footballers in cave

Persistent heavy rain has hampered rescue efforts to reach a team of 12 young footballers and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand since the weekend.

Hundreds of rescue workers are involved in the operation which is now focusing on trying to find another opening into the cave after the main entrance became inaccessible.

Rescue personnel search for alternate entrances to the cave
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Rescue personnel search for alternate entrances to the cave

Military teams, including a Navy SEAL unit, struggled through water inside the cave at the Tham Luang complex which runs six miles under a mountain in the northern province of Chiang Rai.

Commander Buncha Duriyapan said: “Last night we worked non-stop in order to drain water out of the cave as much as possible.”

Rescue workers bring in large hoses and additional water pumps
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Rescue teams bring in large hoses and additional water pumps
Emergency rescue teams gather in the staging area as they continue the search for 12 young soccer team members
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The rising water level has hampered the efforts

General Chalermchai Sittisart of the Thai army said hope had not been lost.

He said: “We still have hope. All agencies are trying their best. We have a challenge from the water level which keeps rising.

“We are adding more pumps to lower the level so that the SEAL team can operate better.”

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing on Saturday after football practice.

A rescue worker walks in Tham Luang caves
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A rescue worker walks in Tham Luang caves

Distraught friends and relatives have been gathering in the mud and rain at the mouth of the cave hoping for news.

Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said rescuers had identified three chimneys or shafts rising from the roof of the cave to the open air on the mountain and they hoped to descend into the cave from one of them.

The boys are members of the Wild Boars team which takes part in a variety of sports including football, cycling and swimming and come from schools across Chiang Rai province.

They are led by their coach Ekapol “Aek” Chanthawong who one parent described as “very dedicated to the team”.

Military commanders have been drafted in
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A navy SEAL unit has been brought in to assist in the rescue efforts
The teenagers went missing on Saturday
Image:
The teenagers went missing on Saturday

Relatives have been performing a morning ritual in which they called out for the missing boys and played drums and gongs.

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Two relatives held fishing nets as a symbolic way to fish out lost spirits from the cave.

Rescuers have found some of the boys’ belongings further inside the cave, raising hopes they may have fled deeper inside to get away from the water.

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