Rescuers found 13 missing members of a youth soccer team inside the cave complex at Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non-Forest Park, Chiang Rai, and are working to bring them out. Photo courtesy of the Royal Thai Army
July 3 (UPI) -- Rescuers are trying to figure out how to free a dozen teen boys and their coach from a Thailand cave, which officials say could take months.
The 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach were found alive Monday after a nine-day search in the Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai.
The initial relief of finding the team has turned to concern as rescuers attempt to free the boys from a deep cavern underground, where the exit has been blocked by floodwaters.
"It is estimated that the boys are around 1.2 miles into the cave and somewhere between 0.6 miles below the surface," Bill Whitehouse, vice chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council, said.
Options for accessing the trapped team remain limited to a narrow, flooded channel. Attempts to pump water or find another exit have been unsuccessful.
Rescuers say the boys may have to effectively scuba dive out.
"Diving is not easy," Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said in Bangkok on Tuesday. "Those who have never done it will find it difficult because there are narrow passages in the cave. They must be able to use diving gear. If the gear is lost at any moment, it can be dangerous to life."
It could take months for the floodwaters to recede enough for the team to get out.
With the rainy season likely to last for a few more months, the team may need to have food sent for the next four months, military officials said.
In the meantime, doctors will conduct medical checks on the boys and attempts were being made to set up a phone line for the boys to speak with their parents, Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osotthanakon said.
The trapped team drew international help, including from U.S. military rescuers and British cave experts.