Thailand cave rescue: 'Four-day window' for boys to escape


The coach of a youth football team trapped for two weeks in a flooded Thai cave has sent his "apologies" to their parents in a scrawled note handed to divers, as officials Saturday appeared to rule out an immediate rescue.

"Don't worry, we are all strong", one of the boys wrote.

Mr Infantino wrote: "If, as we all hope, they are reunited with their families in the coming days and their health allows them to travel, Federation Internationale de Football Association would be delighted to invite them to attend the 2018 World Cup Final in Moscow as our guests".

Ekkapol Chantawong, the boys' 25-year-old football coach, apologised to the parents in his own letter. "The next three to four days from now is the most favourable time for the operation and rescue mission using one of the action plans", he said.

One boy, called Nick, wrote: "Mum, Dad, Nick loves Mum and Dad and siblings".

"Mom, Dad, Don't worry, I'm OK, please tell brother Yod to prepare to take me to eat fried chicken".

"To all the parents, all the kids are still fine".

A team of Thai Navy SEALS, soldiers, police and volunteers have been working around the clock to try and drain the cave.

Thai officials had been leaning in their public statements toward a quick underwater evacuation because of fear that access to the cave could soon close again because of seasonal monsoon rains expected this weekend.

They are hoping that an upgraded draining effort can lower the water in an area where it is still at or near the ceiling. Rescuers said the group had not yet learned the diving skills needed to leave the flooded cave. "I promise to take the very best care of the kids", he said in a note given to divers on Friday.

"They know once the monsoonal rains start to flow back into the cave, water levels will rise no matter how hard they pump all that water out, which they've been doing continuously for two weeks now".

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"We are still in a war against water and time", he said.

However, he indicated that further downpours might speed up attempts to extract them, despite the dangers.

It is also worth noting here that an ex Navy SEAL who was involved in a rescue task lost his way on returning from establishing an oxygen line to the chamber where the children are stuck.

He said the boys were still healthy and have practised wearing diving masks and breathing in preparation for the diving possibility.

Gong Hui, a Chinese diver involved in the operation that has drawn some 130 Thai and worldwide divers, told Reuters on Saturday before the fresh rains that water levels in the cave had "receded a lot" after sustained pumping had removed millions of litres of water.

The dramatic rescue efforts and the boys' plight have garnered global attention, perhaps most notably at soccer's most widely watched event, the World Cup.

Warild suggested a compromise that would buy the rescuers some time: find a safe halfway point where the boys and rescue divers could take shelter if the cave refloods.

The Thai defence ministry said a team from a Musk firm with drilling and exploration knowhow should reach the cave on Sunday.

The death of an experienced rescue diver in the cave system underlined the inherent risks in attempting to move the boys.

But the difficulty of getting them out was emphasised on Friday when Saman Kunan, a 38-year-old former Thai Navy Seal died after laying oxygen tanks along a potential exit route.

The strategically placed air canisters allow divers to stay underwater for longer during what is about a five-hour trip to reach the stranded team. In a string of tweets, Musk said his tunneling firm, Boring Co., and others will look for new ways to reach the underground chamber in the country's north.