Missing Youth Soccer Team Remains Trapped in Thailand Cave as Flooding Hampers Rescue Teams

On Tuesday, friends and family huddled around northern Thailand’s Tham Luang Nang cave as they anxiously awaited any word from rescue teams about the Wild Boars soccer team, whose members have been trapped in the flooded cave since Saturday, reports say.

“The kids have been in the cave before, but they didn’t think that going in at this time would be that dangerous,” Chote Narin, with the Mai Sai district police station, told the Associated Press.

Police said they believe 12 members of the team — ranging in age from 11 to 16 — and their coach, 25, crawled into the cave through a narrow 15-meter long channel, CNN reported. Officials said rising flood waters blocked the team’s path, leaving the group trapped in the cave, according to CNN.

“We are still optimistic they are all alive,” Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon told the Bangkok Post. “Even though they may not have anything to eat, they should have water to drink.”

Waters in the cave continued to rise on Monday, blocking the path in the dark chamber, Kamolchai Kotcha, with Thailand’s national parks authority, told CNN.

“We have been working almost 24 hours but there are many limitations, the caves are pitch dark and very low level of oxygen in some areas, and scattering rains just made our task more difficult,” Kotcha said.

The search was launched after a park officer saw the boys’ backpacks, bicycles and soccer cleats abandoned outside the cave — even though the structure was off limits at the time, according to CNN.

Divers with a Royal Thai Navy special operations unit made their way through the flooded passage, searching as long as they could on Monday before officials called off the mission with plans to resume on Tuesday, the New York Times reported. Chiang Rai Deputy Governor Passakorn Bunyalak remained optimistic on Monday, according to the Times.

“The kids are athletes, and they have skills,” Bunyalak told reporters. “They are alert all the time. And they are always active. They will try to survive by continuing to move.”

Friends and family members told the AP that the teammates often went on adventures with the coach, Ekapol “Aek” Chanthawong, including entering caves, riding their bikes to Myanmar and swimming in waterfalls.

Thinnakorn Boonpiam, whose 13-year-old son is among the missing, told the AP that he often worried about his son, who would sometimes come home late after being with the team.

“I have asked my son to leave the team several times, but he wouldn’t,” Boonpiam told the AP. “I suppose he enjoys these activities.”

Officials have said they are hopeful the boys are alive, according to the AP, adding that, in the past, tourists trapped in the caves by flood have been rescued after the waters receded.

Noppadon Kanthawong’s 13-year-old son, Songpol, decided to skip the trip, the AP reported. The boy held back tears as he spoke of his teammates.

“We are all close friends,” Songpol told the AP. “I want to see my friends soon.”

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