MAE SAI, Thailand – Thai officials believe 12 boys missing in cave are alive

Footage from a video taken on June 24 shows rescue teams at the entrance of a deep cave where a group of boys went missing in Chang Rai, northern Thailand. – AP

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MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) – Multiple attempts to locate 12 boys and their soccer coach missing in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand for nearly two days have failed, but officials said yesterday they believe they’re still alive.

The boys, aged 11-15, are believed to have entered the Tham Luang Nang Non Cave in Chiang Rai province with their 25-year-old coach late Saturday afternoon. A mother reported that her son did not return from soccer practice that day, setting off the search.

“We are still searching right now,” an officer at Mae Sai District Police Station Chote Narin said yesterday afternoon. “We’ve found traces but no people yet.”

He said footprints and handprints were found inside the cave complex and that officials believe the boys are still alive. He said the fact that they’re athletes should help them endure the situation.

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Navy SEAL divers were trying to reach a large chamber deep inside the cave complex where officials thought the students might be. The chamber is about four kilometres from the entrance of the cave, which is thought to be about six to eight kilometres long.

The cave, cut into a mountainside in far northern Thailand near the border with Myanmar, is a local tourist attraction but can flood severely during Thailand’s rainy season, which runs from June to October. Rain continued to fall in the area Monday afternoon and officials said parts of the cave were flooded under at least five metres of water.

Kamolchai Kotcha, an official at the forest park where the cave is located, said yesterday morning that attempts to reach the chamber had failed as the passage is extremely small, “flooded and covered with sand and mud”. / 

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