A heavy rainshower hit northern Thailand late on Saturday, worsening conditions at the cave where rescuers were waging a “war with water and time” to save 12 trapped boys and their soccer coach, with a rescue possible within days.
The rain could potentially set back progress made over the last week to drain the Tham Luang cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai.
With oxygen levels dropping and rainstorms forecast, time is running out on a plan to teach the boys — some as young as 11 and not strong swimmers — to make a dive through narrow, waterlogged passageways that would challenge experienced cavers.
The best window for a rescue could come in the next three or four days, the leader of the rescue effort said on Saturday.
Narongsak Osottanakorn’s cautious message of hope came a day after the death of a Thai rescue diver, a grim turn in what began two weeks ago as an adventure to celebrate the birthday of one of the boys.
Up on the hill, where rescuers are seeking alternative routes down into the cave, another accident occurred on Saturday night: a vehicle skidded off a dirt track, seriously injuring the driver and a passenger and harming four other volunteers, authorities said.
Earlier, at the sprawling cave mouth below, lines of frogmen and soldiers with flashlights could be seen emerging from the darkness, as generators chugged and pumped water out from blue nylon pipes.
Dozens of Royal Thai Army soldiers rested on rocks outside the cave, with two of them saying they had been told by superiors that the rescue operation would likely begin Sunday or the day after.
Authorities tightened a security cordon, draping plastic sheets around the approach to the cave, further giving the sense that a rescue might be imminent.
This could not be independently corroborated by Reuters, but Narongsak, a former provincial governor, told reporters earlier on Saturday that the next three to four days was “the best and most ideal time for the rescue operation.”
“The current situation, with the air and water levels and the boys’ health, is the best yet,” he added. “We’re still at war with water and time.” – Reuters