Navy Seal rescue teams are racing against time and rising water to find and rescue the 12 footballers and a coach trapped deep inside the Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non cave.
Chiang Rai deputy governor Pasakorn Boonyalak told the media at about 4 pm that he was confident that the 13 are still alive after Navy Seal rescue teams have found foot and hand prints on the dry ground inside the cave where water has not yet reached.
He said all the 13 are sportsmen and must be trying to find their way out.
Meanwhile, a new question has emerged – that is how to get the 13 out of the flooded cave if they are still alive because some sections of the underground cave are completely flooded as deep as five meters.
Mr Pasakorn said that rescue teams had adjusted rescue techniques which include training the 13 how to use a scuba gear in case they have to dive out of the flooded cave in case they are found alive. Or they are made to wait on the high ground inside the cave and a tent to be set up there until water has receded to a safe level that they can wade through to get out.
The deputy governor said that Navy Seal teams are about two kilometers away from the end of the tunnel and they expect to take an hour walk to reach the destination.
Meanwhile, at about 3.30 pm, a helicopter was dispatched to survey areas above the cave after some villagers who are familiar with the terrain said there is at least a tunnel which can access to the cave.
The chopper has located the tunnel as claimed by villagers and officials in the aircraft dropped food and bottled water into the tunnel plus hand-written note calling the 13, in case they found the dropped food, to wait there for Seal teams who will try to reach them.
The tunnel is about 800 meters from the first chamber of the cave, but the route inside the cave is zigzag and can be longer than 800 meters.
Mr Kamonchai Kotcha, director of the Office of Conserved Area in Chiang Rai, said that the cave is not open to the public and anyone who wants to get in must first notify park officials, especially during the rainy season when the cave can be flooded.
Also, there is a sign at the cave entrance, saying that no entry unless there is a permission.
Meanwhile, at the entrance of the cave, preparations have been made with life-saving gears on standby to be provided to the survivors if need be. Also, a helicopter of the border patrol police is on standby to be flown in to bring the survivors to the nearest hospital.