'Limited time' for daring rescue mission to free Thailand's trapped boys

Navy diver dies in attempt to deliver supplies to boys trapped in Thai cave

Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days as the only way to reach them was by navigating a series of dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.

Rescue missions to find the boys began immediately but it took over a week to locate them. If weather forecasts are correct, access to the cave could soon close again due to flooding from seasonal monsoon rains. However, cave rescue specialists have cautioned against that approach except as a last resort, because of the dangers it poses.

Parents of the trapped children have kept long vigils at the camp site, which has teemed with media and rescue workers.

The diver's death raises serious doubts over the safety of attempting to bring the 12 boys and their football coach out through the cramped, waterlogged passageways of the Tham Luang cave.

"The mission requires a lot of divers to support those divers at the frontline including preparation for moving the 12 footballers and coach".

But Thailand's Navy SEAL commander indicated that rescuers may have little choice but to attempt the tricky extraction of the group, in the first official admission that they can not wait out the monsoon underground.

One of his enterprises is Boring Co., which digs tunnels for advanced transport systems and has advanced ground-penetrating radar. There has been no immediate official reaction to his plans.

The search and rescue operation for the junior soccer team, who disappeared in the cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai on June 23, had seemed to be nearing an end when British and Thai divers found the boys late on Monday, huddled on a small, muddy bank in a flooded chamber.

Kobchai Boonarana, deputy director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation department, said it was up to the rescue team in the cave to decide if and when the boys would be strong enough to tackle the journey out.

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It adds that the team's appearance at the final would "undoubtedly be a wonderful moment of communion and celebration".

They sought to reassure their parents, telling them they were cold but "doing fine" and being cared for by navy Seal divers.

A senior army commander, Major General Chalongchai Chaiyakam, said that the most pressing mission now is to provide an oxygen line to reach the children, who are stuck deep in the complex but are being looked after by four Seals, including a medic.

He said that the last time the two spoke, "we talked about the kids - whether they were out yet".

He did not elaborate. His death marked the first fatality in the operation to rescue the group and underscored the dangers of navigating through the cave underwater, even for those who have experience.

"Despite this, we will continue until we accomplish our mission", Apakorn said.

Thai authorities say a former navy SEAL working to rescue boys trapped in cave has died from lack of oxygen.

Arpakorn told reporters Saman's role was to place oxygen canisters on the route within the cave the active SEALs are using to reach the trapped boys.

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