(AFP) – The 12 Thai boys trapped in a cave are not yet ready to make the complex dive out, the commander of the rescue mission said early Saturday, although forecast heavy rains could speed up their extraction attempt.
“The boys are not suitable…(they) cannot dive at this time,” Narongsak Osottanakorn, who is leading the operation, told reporters just after midnight in English.
“Now the problem is the children’s readiness to dive.”
Narongsak, a former governor of northern Chiang Rai province where the cave is located, said there were no plans to pull the boys and their coach out overnight but if monsoon rains fell and water rose in the Tham Luang cave over the coming days they could change their plans.
Thailand’s Navy SEAL commander earlier said rescuers may have “limited time” to attempt the tricky job of getting the group out, the first official admission waiting out the monsoon period in the cave may not be possible.
But the path to freedom is hugely dangerous for the boys, some of whom are unable to swim and have no scuba experience in an environment with low visibility that confounds even the most skilled.
An experienced former Thai Navy Seal assisting with the rescue died after running out of oxygen on Friday, raising fears that it was far from safe for the kids to make the attempt.
The round trip in and out of the cave to reach the boys can take a highly skilled diver about 11 hours.
But some involved have pointed out that the team has been in Tham Luang before they and their coach went in on June 23 and were trapped by floodwater, so the familiar terrain might help.
They have been receiving basic training in breathing through diving equipment after they were located on a muddy embankment deep inside the cave on Monday night, looking gaunt and weak.
The saga has captivated Thailand and the rest of the world as rescuers fought to pump out massive quantities of water to help make diving easier.
Though mild weather has held, light rains picked up again on Friday.
Parents of the trapped children have kept long vigils at the camp site, which has teemed with media and rescue workers.
But families have only been able to hear from their children through footage uploaded to the Thai Navy Seal Facebook page.
Messages of support for the “Wild Boars” team have come in from across the world, including from football stars in Russia for the World Cup.