The Thai boys trapped deep inside a partially flooded cave will be evacuated alongside experienced scuba divers in what is being called a “buddy dive”.
It is understood that the schoolboys and their 25-year-old coach will be guided out of the 4km cave tunnel, one-on-one with a Navy SEAL diver.
It has been reported by The Mirror that the buddy system allows the skilled divers to closely monitor their partner and ensure safety, reports news.com.au.
At a late night press conference, Chiang Rai province governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said there was “a plan in place”.
While details of the new plan emerged, Thai officials stressed that the boys were not yet ready to attempt a dangerous dive to freedom.
They say the boys have not learned adequate diving skills in the few days since searchers reached the area where they are sheltering.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, the governor of the Chiang Rai region, where the cave is situated, said the boys had enough strength to walk but could not swim to safety.
Narongsak Osottanakorn said the health of most of the boys had “improved to normal”, and that divers were continuing to teach diving and breathing techniques.
When asked if a rescue attempt would be made overnight if it started to rain, he said: “No, the boys can’t dive at this time.”
There was great concern over the dwindling air supply as the level of oxygen in the cave where the boys are trapped dropped to 15 per cent. The usual level is around 21 per cent.
However, an air line was installed overnight to the cave where the group waits to be rescued.
The diver’s death brought heartache for rescuers and anxious relatives waiting outside the Tham Luang cave in the country’s mountainous north — and raised serious doubts over the feasibility of attempting to bring a group of boys with no diving experience out through the cramped passageways filled with muddy water.
But rescue officials fear their options are running out given fresh monsoon rains are forecast for the coming days.
Thailand’s Navy SEAL commander on Friday said rescuers may have little choice but to attempt the tricky extraction of the group, the first official admission that the 12 boys and their coach might not be able to wait out the monsoon underground.
“At first, we thought the children could stay for a long time … but now things have changed, we have a limited time,” Apakorn Yookongkaew told reporters.
In an update in the early hours of Saturday morning, rescue operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said it was “not suitable” to make the boys dive to safety yet.