Rescuer dies in effort to save boys in cave

Stranded Thai boys in good health, suggests latest video | Thailand | cave | boys | missing | coach | video | diving | rescue

Officials are racing against worsening weather and lowered oxygen levels in the underground complex in the country's north.

A USA military rescue team is briefed by the Thai Navy SEALs at the staging area outside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand Thursday, June 28, 2018. Authorities have said the soccer players are being looked after by Thai navy SEALs, including medics, staying with them inside the cave.

"At first, we thought the children could stay for a long time... but now things have changed, we have a limited time", Apakorn Yookongkaew told reporters. "We are calculating how much time we have if it rains, how many hours and days".

The group are understood to be between 800m and 1km below the surface, and rescue teams have reported that the level of oxygen in the cave has now dropped to to 15% - the usual level is around 21%.

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. He said the oxygen line is also tied to a telephone line that will provide a channel of communication for the kids.

The 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for nearly two weeks now. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for nine days.

They were trapped for 10 days before authorities found them perched on a muddy ledge almost 4km from the entrance of the cave.

Images later showed that one of the boys was wearing an England football shirt.

That solution, however, now appears less likely, as authorities have expressed a greater need for urgency because of the coming rains and the dangerously low oxygen levels inside the cave.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, are unable to swim and have no diving experience, so Thai Navy Seals have been teaching them to do so.

His death underscored the danger of moving from the chamber to mouth of the cave, and raised serious doubts about the safety of bringing the boys out through the cramped, flooded passageways.

Less than a week later, Saman, a former member of the Thai navy's elite SEAL unit, lost his life as he worked underwater laying oxygen tanks in the cave complex.

It's not all gloomy, however, as the rescuers pass the time by cracking jokes and laughing with each other before taking the plunge underwater. Another navy official said he didn't believe the man's oxygen tank ran out.

"We can no longer wait for all conditions (to be ready) because of the oppressive situation", he told journalists Friday.

They became trapped after rain flooded the Tham Luang caves near Mae Sai and were not found for more than a week.

They have been receiving basic training in breathing through diving equipment after they were located by British cave divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen on Monday.

Authorities are now pumping water out of the cave in the hope they can get the boys out before a new deluge of monsoonal rains hits the region over the weekend.

The boys have been reached and supplied with food and water to keep them healthy before a rescue attempt can take place.

Rescuers are considering other options including keeping the 13 inside the cave until the flood waters recede at the end of the rainy season in about four months.

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