CHIANG RAI – Chiang Rai’s Deputy Governor Pasakorn Boonyalak told the media at about 4 pm that he was confident that the 12 students and football coach are still alive after Navy Seal rescue teams found foot and hand prints on the dry ground inside the cave where water has not yet reached.
A navy commander overseeing the search said he was hopeful the 12 twelve boys, aged 13-16, and their 25-year-old coach would be rescued.
“I believe they’re all still alive but they might be exhausted … we should get good news today,” Rear Admiral Arparkorn Yookongkaew said.
Meanwhile, questions have emerged on how to get the 13 out of the flooded cave if they are still alive because some sections of the underground cave are completely flooded as deep as five meters.
Deputy Governor Pasakorn said that the Navy seal rescue team said they could possibly instruct the trapped footballers on how to use scuba gear in case they have to dive out of the flooded cave or they would be made to wait on the high ground inside the cave in a tent until water has receded to a safe level that they can wade through to get out.
According to the Deputy Governor the Navy Seal teams are about two kilometers away from the end of the tunnel and they expect to take an hour walk to reach the destination.
He said all the 13 are very athletic and must be trying to find their way out.
Meanwhile, at about 3.30 pm, a helicopter was dispatched to survey areas above the cave after some villagers who are familiar with the terrain said there is an alternate tunnel which can access the cave.
The chopper located the tunnel as claimed by villagers and officials in the aircraft dropped food and bottled water into the tunnel plus hand-written note calling the 13 footballers to wait there for Seal teams who will try to reach them.
The tunnel is about 800 meters from the first chamber of the cave, but the route inside the cave is zigzag and can be longer than 800 meters.
Engineers from Thailand’s Telecom Giant AIS have also managed to place an antenna into the cave to try and boost cellular service into the cave in hopes that one of the trapped footballers has a phone that can pickup the signal.
Mr Kamonchai Kotcha, director of the Office of Conserved Area in Chiang Rai, said that the cave is not open to the public and anyone who wants to get in must first notify park officials, especially during the rainy season when the cave can be flooded.
Also, there is a sign at the cave entrance, saying that no entry unless there is a permission.
Meanwhile, at the entrance of the cave, worried parent and news media have gathered hoping to hear any news about the trapped footballers as police and security personnel has blocked access to the main rescue operation.
Preparations have been made with life-saving gears on standby to be provided to the survivors and a helicopter from the border patrol police is on standby to be flown in to bring the survivors to the nearest hospital.
The 12 missing footballers are aged 13-16 years and come from several local schools.
Video from Inside the Cave