Rainfall threat dampens euphoria after UK divers help find Thai cave group


British divers who discovered 12 trapped boys and their football coach in flooded caves in Thailand face the daunting prospect of helping them to safety with heavy rainfall forecast for this week.

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen were the first rescuers to reach the group who disappeared in the Luang Nang Non Cave, in Chiang Rai province, on June 23.

There were scenes of elation late on Monday as relatives gathered at the cave site learned the group had been found in a stable medical condition and given high-protein liquid food.

But rescuers now must grapple with the challenge of safely extracting the group through nearly a mile of tunnels, large portions of which are underwater.

Heavy rains forecast for later this week could flood the cave even further and the boys may need to swim out using diving equipment before then, the Thai interior minister told the Associated Press.

Anupong Paojinda said they could use the same narrow passages out that their rescuers used to get in and would need to be guided by experts, an extremely dangerous task for a novice.

Rescue staff
Rescue staff

The forecasted rainfall means there will not be much time to teach the boys and coach them in how to swim using scuba equipment, heightening the risk.

Another option previously suggested was waiting for the water level to drop, which some officials reportedly fear could take months, as the country's rainy season typically lasts into October.

Rescuers have also searched for other potential entrances to drill into the chamber and airlift the group out. It is estimated that the boys are around half a mile below the surface.

Elated parents
Elated parents

But it would be a complex and delicate task as the cave stretches under a mountainside for up to six miles and the rocky ground varies in elevation throughout.

Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen, along with a third Briton, Robert Harper, joined the "huge" search operation after the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC) was contacted by Thai authorities seeking expert help.

Thai authorities have said that the military will make the final decision on how the group are rescued.