File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )
Although it has been more than a week, experts are still hoping all those missing remain alive
Two Chinese teams have joined the search and rescue operation for the 12 teenage footballers and their coach, who went missing on June 23 in a cave in northern Thailand.
The frantic rescue operation entered the eighth day on Saturday at the sprawling Tham Luang Nang Non cave in which 12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach were trapped by flooding and became unaccounted for.
The efforts have previously been hampered by torrential rain in the region, but have picked up the pace the past two days as the weather improved.
More pipes have been installed to pump water out of the cave entrance so that the rescuers can go down the cave and search for the missing team.
"The water pumping work went well today. The water was clear, which is good news. If you look closely, you can see the water is more clear than what was pumped out in the last couple of days," said Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn.
Even though the Chinese team has brought all the necessary equipment, including underwater drone, diving gears and 3D imager, divers said the operation is still challenging.
"The main difficulty is the rushing floodwater and low visibility. Also, the passage inside the cave is very narrow, which can easily jam our equipment," said diving rescue expert Zhou Yahui.
Although it has been more than a week, experts are still hoping all those missing remain alive.
"Firstly, there's enough room inside the cave. Secondly, there is also enough water. Thirdly, as far as we know, the missing footballers carried some supplies with them when they entered the cave," explained Wang Yingjie, head of one of the Chinese rescue teams.
The Thai government has dispatched more than 10,000 soldiers to carry out the rescue operation.
Rescue teams and experts from several other countries, including the United States, Britain, Laos and Myanmar, have also joined the search operation.