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Rescuers Weigh Cave Extraction Options for Trapped Boys as Heavy Rains Predicted

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CHIANG RAI – Thai authorities say they are committed to “100 percent safety” when they consider how to extract a youth soccer team from the partially flooded cave where they were found on the 10th day of a desperate search.

Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said Tuesday morning that a navy SEAL team will make the final call on the evacuation method. He said one method being considered is for the group to be coached to swim using special breathing masks.

He said other efforts will continue, such as draining water from the cave and exploring the mountainside for shafts and other entrances to the caverns below.

Experts have said the safest option could be to supply the 12 boys and their coach where they are and wait for the water levels to drop.

Rescuers are now racing to pump water from Tham Luang Cave in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai as forecasted heavy rains threaten to complicate efforts to free the young soccer team found trapped for 10 days, an ordeal officials warned they may have to bear longer.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said in Bangkok on Tuesday that the 13 footballers would be brought out of the cave in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district through the passage to its main entrance.

Rescuers would try to minimize the necessity for them to dive by pumping as much water as possible out of the cave first.

They would have to dive, with the use diving gear, at some sections, especially through a narrow section where close escort was not possible Gen Anupong said.

Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital in Muang district, Chiang Rai, has arranged a ward where all 13 could be cared for, and accommodation for 54 relatives, Dr Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, public health inspector-general, said.

News of the survival of the “Wild Boar” team sparked jubilation in a nation gripped by the harrowing drama, with news websites and Facebook users celebrating their discovery and hailing the rescuers as heroes.

“Thank you all Thais, thank you all foreigners, everybody is a hero and everybody helped each other,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.

Hundreds of rescuers and volunteers helped in the search operation which finally found the young footballers in a dry area deep within winding Tham Luang cave in the Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non forest park in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai, on Monday night.