The Thai school boys trapped in the flooded cave are faced with an anxious wait as authorities decide the best plan of action for their rescue.
There are three main ways that the boys could be freed, but with Thailand going through its monsoon season, heavy rainfall and flooding are putting authorities under pressure to act fast.
One option being considered by rescue services in northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai district is to leave the boys waiting in the cave until monsoon season is over and they can safely walk out when the waters have receded.
However that means a wait of up to four months for their rescue.
Another option, potentially the quickest and the riskiest, is to teach them to dive while another method could see them airlifted out of the cave.
Diving is the fastest means of escape but the boys cannot swim and so navigating channels that are difficult for even expert divers could cause problems.
However forecast rains could mean there is no other option because they need to get out of the cave as quickly as possible.
The boys have been practicing wearing masks and breathing but haven’t yet been taught any diving moves.
Anupong Paojinda, the interior minister, told reporters last night: ‘We’re worried about the rain that’s been forecast.
‘The boys may need to swim out. It will mean they will have to learn how to using dive equipment so they can be guided out through the water with the aid of professionals.’
Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn added it is unknown when an extraction could be attempted, but it is unlikely to be today.
He said: ‘If it’s risky or not safe, we will not proceed yet. It has to be 100 percent safe.’
Ben Reymenants, a Thai-based Belgian diver who was helping with the rescue, warned that it could become a race against time.
He told Sky News: ‘They can’t swim, so they definitely can’t dive.
‘The easiest [option] would be that they keep pumping the water out of the cave. They need another three or four feet so they can literally float them out with life jackets, but time is not on their side.
‘They’re expecting heavy thunderstorms and rain which might flood the entire cave system.’
The British Cave Rescue Council, which has members taking part in the operation, said in a statement 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.’
Another option could be that they drill and airlift the boys out in a similar fashion to what happened with the infamous Chilean miners.
However the terrain isn’t as conducive to digging as it’s so wet from consistently heavy rainfall, and finding a shaft wide enough to find the boys is proving difficult.
Cave rescue experts have said it could be safest to simply supply the boys where they are for now, and wait for the water to go down.
That could take over four months, however, given that Thailand’s rainy season typically lasts through October.
The teammates were found by rescue divers late on Monday night during a desperate week-long search that drew assistance from experts around the globe.
The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach disappeared after they went exploring in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Chiang Rai province after a football game on June 23.
They went missing after an alleged local initiation ceremony the boys took part in, where they would run to the end of a cave tunnel, write their names and then run back.
But while they were all inside a flash flood sealed off the exit, forcing the boys to head further into the mountain.
Armed with a single functioning torch, they managed to reach the spot where they have subsequently been discovered.
Authorities said the boys were being looked after by seven members of the Thai navy SEALs, including medics, who were staying with them inside the cave.
They were mostly in stable condition and have received high-protein drinks.