Tense search for lost cave boys in Thailand continues

Rescuers conduct a survey on foot to find hidden shafts

Australian police and military have joined other worldwide teams in the rescue mission.

Thai navy divers have reached closer to a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 boys and their football coach have been trapped for more than a week.

A break in the rain eased flooding in the system of caverns and more experts from around the world joined the rescue mission.

The upbeat attitude comes after a week of heavy rains that pounded the area near the Myanmar and Laos borders, making it hard to reach deeper into the 10-kilometer-long (6-mile) recesses of Tham Luang.

Australian police rescue experts and defence force personnel are on their way to Thailand to assist the search for a group of boys missing in a flooded cave.

The Australian team has joined forces with 11 Chinese rescue experts, up to 32 United States forces personnel, three British divers and a British cave expert as well as rescue teams from Myanmar and Laos who are already there.

Rescuers make their way down at the entrance to a cave complex where 12 boys and their soccer coach went missing, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Sunday, July 1, 2018.

Reflecting that hope, a medical evacuation drill was held on Saturday morning to see how long it would take to get rescued people out of the cave into 13 ambulances and to the nearest hospital.

Thai Muslims attend a Friday prayer in Ban Ao Manow mosque in Narthiwat province on June 29, 2018 where special prayer was made for the safety and rescue of the missing children's football team and their coach who have been trapped in Tham Luang cave.

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"We have the skills of cave rescue and rope rescue so we can try to do something for the children", James Wang, from China's Green Boat Emergency Rescue, told AFP.

Saturday's lower water levels allowed Thai Navy SEAL divers to get into areas they had to abandon earlier in the week because murky waters reduced visibility. The group, which typically carries out land search and rescue operations, also has experience diving in flooded caves.

"Today the situation is much better and we have high hopes, and will be here all night", he said early Saturday evening.

"We surveyed all areas and there were reported to be about 20, and out of that there are about 10 with possibility of having shafts", Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn told reporters Sunday.

"It's still tough as the water stream is quite strong", he said.

Chaiwat Dusadeepanich of the Department of Groundwater Resources explained Saturday that his team, which had been drilling for two days, found a small underground water source near the cave.

Teams have been combing the mountainside looking for fissure that might lead to such shafts. "Today we're are working inside those two shafts".

Officials said the boys know the site well and have visited many times, so they may have been able to find shelter.

"The biggest issue that they are facing right now if they are alive is psychological because they don't know at what point they might get rescued", Mirza said by phone from the U.S. state of Indiana.

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