The young members of a Thai soccer team who have been trapped for almost two weeks in a partially flooded cave can be seen smiling and joking around in a video released by the Thai Navy SEALs Wednesday. The boys, illuminated by a flashlight, can be seen wrapped in foil blankets as they assure a nation—and world—that has become transfixed with their story that they’re “healthy.” In the video, the 12 boys aged 11 to 16 and their 25-year-old coach introduce themselves as they clasped their hands in a traditional Thai greeting known as “wai.” Although visibly thin, the boys look to be in good spirits, and there is even some laughter at the end of the video.
Another video shows divers treating minor wounds on some of the boys.
The good news of seeing the boys, who disappeared June 23 and were found Monday, comes as rescuers make clear that getting them out of there will be anything but easy. Forecast of heavy rains for the weekend make what was already going to be a complicated plan even more dangerous. For now, the rescue teams are giving the boys crash courses in swimming and diving while they explore options for getting them out of there. “The water is very strong and space is narrow. Extracting the children takes a lot of people,” Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.
The boys have told rescuers they heard sounds from the cave, including dogs barking and children playing, which has rescuers exploring the possibility that there might be a hole through which they can get out rather than forcing the boys to go through treacherous waters. It took expert divers three hours to get to the boys who are located around 2.5 miles from the mouth of the cave. Even experienced Navy SEAL divers said it was a challenging path.
The British Cave Rescue Council, which is taking part in the operation said that “although water levels have dropped, the diving conditions remain difficult and any attempt to dive the boys and their coach out will not be taken lightly because there are significant technical challenges and risks to consider.”
For now, government officials aren’t giving any estimates of when the boys may be out. In a sign that it won’t be imminent, authorities are working to install a communications system inside the cave so the boys can talk to their parents. Authorities also suggested the boys may be brought out in groups, with the strongest ones who are confident about their swimming and diving abilities coming out first. “All 13 don’t have to come out at the same time,” Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters. “Who is ready first can go first.”
Anmar Mirza, national coordinator of the National Cave Rescue Commission, told CNN the rescue is “one of the toughest I’ve seen.” Trying to teach the boys the diving skills necessary to get out in the treacherous conditions is likely the riskiest option. “It’s something that skilled cave divers spend hundreds of hours training for after they have already been open water divers for quite some time,” he said. “A moment of panic or loss of the breathing regulator can be fatal for the novice diver, and may also put the cave diver escorting him in danger.”