Thai official says boys may be taken out of cave in stages

MAE SAI: A Thai official overseeing the rescue operation of a soccer team trapped in a flooded cave said the 12 boys and their coach may not all be extracted at the same time depending on their health.

Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said Wednesday that “all 13 may not come out at the same time. If the condition is right and if that person is ready 100 per cent, he can come out.” He said authorities will evaluate their readiness each day and if there is any risk will not proceed.

The teammates and their coach were seen in latest video sitting with Thai navy SEALs in the dark cave, their skinny faces illuminated by a flashlight. The boys, many wrapped in foil warming blankets, take turns introducing themselves, pressing their hands together in a traditional Thai greeting and saying their names and that they are healthy.

Narongsak said that the boys have been practicing wearing diving masks and breathing, but he doesn’t believe they have attempted any practice dives.

The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach disappeared after they went exploring in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Chiang Rai province after a soccer game June 23. The teammates, who were trapped inside when heavy rains flooded the cave, were found by rescue divers Monday night during a desperate search that drew assistance from experts around the globe.

Authorities said the boys, who had also been shown Tuesday in a video shot by the British diver who discovered them, were being looked after by seven members of the Thai navy SEALs, including medics, who were staying with them inside the cave. They were mostly in stable condition and have received high-protein drinks.

In all of the videos, the boys appeared in good spirits. In the most recent video, a navy SEAL is shown treating minor cuts on the feet and legs of the boys with antibiotic ointment. Several of the boys are seen smiling as they interact with the navy SEAL, who cracks jokes.

Seeing the boys has boosted the mood of their family members, and officials are working to install an internet cable to the cave so that parents can talk to their children.

Kian Kamluang, whose 16-year-old son, Pornchai, is in the cave, said she had thought there was a 50 percent chance that her son would be found.

“It’s like he has been given a new life,” she said, adding that she’ll never let her son go into a cave or near water again.

Those waiting for the boys to come out included a group of students who are friends with some of the boys trapped inside, who sang a song in front of the entrance to show their support.

Several religious figures have also shown up, the most popular being a famous Buddhist monk, Kruba Boonchum, who when he first visited the scene had predicted that the boys would be found this week.

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