Search teams trying to find a teenage football team missing in a cave in northern Thailand for over a week have managed to penetrate further underground as the international rescue effort picked up pace, officials said on Sunday.
A group of Thai and Australian divers have gone over 3 kilometres into the cave. They went 400 metres past a key junction in the cavern and are heading towards a cave chamber seen as one of the most likely places the group could be.
They are still just over one kilometre from the cave chamber, named Pattaya Beach, according to the Thai SEAL’s Facebook page.
Most of the route is underwater.
Divers resumed searching on Saturday after being forced to temporarily stop operations due to a high level of flooding in the Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non cave.
“The flood has subsided and the water is clear, not muddy, which means that there is no new mass of water,” said Narongsak Osotthanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province where the cave is located.
“Rescuers have been sent down two viable cave openings, and they are exploring if the paths can lead to the missing group,” he added.
The mission has intensified with the arrival of international experts.
A group of six Australian Federal Police officers with cave diving experience arrived at the site early on Sunday.
“We’re here to support the Thai government in its operation,” said Cameron Noble from Australia’s foreign ministry.
The Australian team has joined forces with 11 Chinese rescue experts, up to 32 US forces personnel, three British divers and a British cave expert as well as rescue teams from Myanmar and Laos who are already there.
As the search entered its ninth day, rescuers still had no certainty of the whereabouts of the missing group, comprising a dozen boys aged 11-16 and their 25-year-old coach.
Last Saturday, the football team visited the cave after a training session. They have not been seen since, leaving only their bicycles behind at the cave entrance.
A flash flood blocked their way out.
Parents of the missing boys have been keeping vigil outside the cave, and have been led in daily prayers by a Buddhist monk.
The cave is 1,000 kilometres north of Bangkok near the border with Myanmar.