Thai official: Boys may have to dive from cave despite peril


MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — A top Thai official said today that heavy rains forecast for the coming days could worsen floods in the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach were located after an exhaustive search, and could force authorities to speed up their extraction by having them dive their way out.

The 13 were located by rescue divers late Monday night in the cave in northern Chiang Rai province during a desperate search that lasted more than a week and drew international help. Officials said Tuesday that the boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach were mostly in stable medical condition and have received high-protein liquid food.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, a member of the country's ruling military junta, said Tuesday that the boys may need to swim out using diving equipment ahead of bad weather forecast for later in the week. He said the boys would be brought out via the same complicated route through which their rescuers entered.

While efforts to pump out the floodwaters would continue, Anupong said it's clear some areas of the sprawling cave cannot be drained and that in order to get out, the boys may need to use diving gear while being guided by two professional divers each. He conceded that if something went awry, it could be disastrous.

"Diving is not easy. For people who have never done it, it will be difficult, unlike diving in a swimming pool, because the cave's features have small channels," he said. "If something happens midway, it could be life-threatening."

Video released early today by the Thai navy showed the boys in their soccer uniforms sitting on a dry area inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave above the water as a spotlight from a rescuer illuminated their faces.

Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said the health of the boys and coach were checked using a field assessment in which red is critical condition, yellow is serious and green is stable.

"We found that most of the boys are in green condition," he said. "Maybe some of the boys have injuries or light injuries and would be categorized as yellow condition. But no one is in red condition."

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