Royal Thai Navy Seals Search For Missing Football Team

British Divers Find 12 Missing Children - But Rescue Not Over

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen are believed to have been the first rescuers to reach the group.

Royal Thai Navy Seals Search For Missing Football Team

Cover: Royal Thai Navy SEALs taking part in the rescue operation on 1 July 2018 (Picture: PA).

British divers have "spearheaded" the discovery of 12 boys and their football coach missing for nine days in flooded caves in Thailand, however rescuers now face the daunting task of bringing them to safety.

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

The two had been called in by the Thai authorities along with another British caving expert, Robert Harper.

They arrived in Thailand three days after the football team went missing.

There were scenes of elation on Monday as parents and relatives who had gathered at the cave site learned the group had been found in a stable medical condition.

However, rescuers still face the challenge of safely helping the boys and their coach to safety through nearly a mile of tunnels, large portions of which are underwater.

Local authorities have said that the military will make the final decision on how the group are rescued, with one option being to coach them how to swim through the passages using scuba equipment.

Another would be waiting for the water level to drop, which some officials are reported to fear could take months.

More than 1,000 people from all over the world have been involved in the operation.

In a video released by the Thai navy, the boys are shown in their uniforms sitting on a dry area inside the cave above the water as a spotlight, apparently from a rescuer, illuminated their faces:

In the footage, a rescuer with an English accent is heard trying to reassure the group that help is coming.

However, they warn that they are not going to be rescued immediately, the voice saying: "Not today. There's two of us, you have to dive."

Chiang Rai provincial Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said despite finding the 13, they are not out of danger yet:

"We found them safe. But the operation isn't over."

Vice Chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC), Bill Whitehouse, described how celebrations that the group had been found quickly turned to the challenge ahead:

"It was euphoria for a moment and then you draw back and think 'what do we do' - it's not going to be easy to get 13 people out of a flooded cave.

"There's space to make your way through, but it is 50/50 underwater over 1.5km (0.9mi). That's still a lot of diving and it's possible it will need a lot of equipment.

"The questions are how much time until the water goes up again."

Royal Thai Navy SEALs take part in rescue PA Images
Royal Thai Navy SEALs take part in rescue of 12 boys and their coach (Pictures: PA).

The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province on 23 June.

Heavy rain that flooded key passages was believed to have trapped the group and had thwarted the search for them.

Divers were hampered again and again by muddy water rising and filing sections of the cave and forcing them to withdraw for safety reasons.