Authorities say Thai schoolboys 'not ready' for underwater cave escape

Authorities say Thai schoolboys 'not ready' for underwater cave escape

Authorities say Thai schoolboys 'not ready' for underwater cave escape

The rescue effort suffered a disheartening setback on Friday with the death of a former Thai navy Seal diving in the flooded passageways to deliver supplies, as authorities raced against worsening weather and lessening oxygen.

A buddhist monk leads an honour guard carrying the coffin of Samarn Poonan, 38, a former member of Thailand's elite navy SEAL unit who died working to save 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped inside a flooded cave, at Chiang Rai airport, Thailand, July 6, 2018.

The group were finally reached by two British rescue divers late on Monday, nine days after they entered the caves.

Officials announced earlier that oxygen levels inside the labyrinthine cavern system are now at 15 percent - down from a standard level of 21 percent - putting the kids at risk of hypoxia, which can be fatal.

Thai rescuers are assisted by an global search team comprising experts from China, Australia, the United States and Britain.

They are being looked after by Thai navy SEALs, including medics, who are staying with them inside the cave.

The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach went exploring in the cave after a soccer game on June 23. They became trapped when a deluge of monsoonal rains flooded the cave.

The UK divers who first reached the boys described their dive as "gnarly" and full of tight passages submerged with opaque waters.

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"Everyone is a professional so we're trying to put it away and avoid it happening again", said the Finn, who is a long-term resident of Thailand.

A huge operation is underway at the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex, where dozens of Thai Navy SEALs and global experts are attempting to find a way to get the boys out.

Rain is expected to rain nearly every day in July and August, the organization's website said. He also thanked worldwide experts who helped find the boys.

Despite the death, divers will continue to provide the soccer players with oxygen and the plan is still for the boys to swim out of the cave with divers.

"If it rains heavily, they will try and bring them out", he said. "He's thinner", she said, as she ran her finger over the image of her son on a television screen.

Rescue teams have been pumping millions of liters of water from the cave in an attempt drain the cave but the impending weekend rains threaten to undermine the work.

The muddy bank where the boys are stranded is some four kilometres from the front entrance of the cave, with sections of the final 1.7-kilometre stretch completely underwater. Another option would be to drill a hole into the cave and airlift the boys out.

Oxygen levels were being depleted by the large number of people working inside the cave network, said Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn.

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But he said the search operation would go on. "It's part of the job".

Thai SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew has said the tragedy won't stop the rescue mission.

Rescue teams have been trying desperately to save them.

Despite concerns, the boys are unlikely to be extracted within the next 24 hours because it was still too risky, according to a Thai Navy official who is not authorized to speak to the media.

"You'll never walk alone", he told the boys, uttering the iconic line associated with the soccer club.

When asked how the children could be extracted safely when an ex-SEAL lost his life on his way back, Arpakorn said the rescuers would take more precautions with children.

But the unprecedented rescue mission has been dogged by the threat of rains.

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