Thailand cave rescue: Authorities clear cave site ‘for rescue’

Journalists leave the site of the Tham Luang cave complexImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Journalists leave the site of the Tham Luang cave complex

Thai authorities have cleared the site near the entrance to a cave where 12 boys and their coach are trapped, ready for a rescue operation.

It was originally thought that the group could remain in the cave for months, but a bid to evacuate the group may now be imminent or already underway.

Only diving teams, medics and security forces remain at the site.

The boys were exploring the cave on 23 June when they were cut off by water.

Earlier official told the hundreds of journalists gathered at the scene that it is was «necessary to evacuate the area for the rescue operation».

On Saturday, the leader of the rescue efforts said that teams had a three to four-day window to save the boys and their coach, amid concerns that monsoon rains could further flood the tunnels.

What is the plan?

A huge military and civilian operation is racing against the clock to bring the group out amid high risks.

The danger of the situation became clear when a former Thai navy diver died after delivering air tanks to the group on Friday.

The boys are currently perched on a dry shelf, but rain could reduce that space to «less than 10 sq m (108 sq ft)», Mr Narongsak said.

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Media captionDr Alex Rowe explains the impact of being trapped underground

Officials say an oxygen line has been installed to counteract the increased carbon dioxide that comes from so many people breathing within such a small area.

Bore holes have also been drilled into the rock to try to drain water out and give the boys more time.

It has previously been said that they could be underground for months, either learning to dive or waiting for the water to recede or be pumped out.

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Media captionHeavy rain is not expected until late in the week in the area where the boys are trapped in a cave

Earlier on Saturday, the head of the mission Narongsak Osottanakorn said the boys had not yet learned the diving skills to allow for their safe passage.

Separately, billionaire technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, who has offered his assistance to the rescue operations, said he had received «more great feedback» from cave experts in Thailand on two possible rescue options his team have been working on.

Musk said on Twitter than one potential solution involved an «kid-sized submarine», while another was an «inflatable tube with airlocks». It is not clear if either will be used in the rescue operations.

The ideal scenario is for enough water to have been pumped out to allow the group to climb out.

Mr Narongsak has not specified the course of action for these next few crucial days.

How did this happen?

The boys were found inside the cave by British rescue divers on Monday, about 4km (2.5 miles) from the cave mouth.

Aged between 11 and 16, they belong to a football club called the Wild Boars, and became trapped during an excursion with their coach.

It took ten days to find them in the underground network’s dark depths.

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