Poignant letters to their parents from boys trapped in Thai cave

Navy diver dies in attempt to deliver supplies to boys trapped in Thai cave

It has been suggested that they may need to learn how to scuba dive in order to escape, but none of the children can swim and cave diving is a notoriously risky sport, as emphasised by the death of one of their rescuers, Saman Gunan, a former navy diver, in the caves on Friday.

Officials prefer to get the boys out as soon as possible because heavy rain expected by Saturday nearly surely will raise water levels again in the cave, making passage in some areas even more hard, if not impossible. If weather forecasts are correct, access to the cave could soon close again due to flooding from seasonal monsoon rains. However, cave rescue specialists have cautioned against that approach except as a last resort, because of the dangers it poses.

An experienced former Thai Navy Seal assisting with the rescue died after running out of oxygen, raising fears that it was far from safe for the kids to make the attempt.

"We can no longer wait for all conditions (to be ready) because circumstances are pressuring us", Thai SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew told a news conference.

"We are awed by the bravery and strength that these young boys and their coach have shown amidst such frightening circumstances", it said on its website.

However, despite concerns of falling oxygen levels inside the cave, Governor Osottanakorn said that United Kingdom experts had suggested that the chamber where the children, aged between 11-16, were located were "alright".

A senior army commander, Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakam, says that the most pressing mission now is to provide an oxygen line to reach the kids.

Lack of oxygen in the cave has proven a danger for rescue workers and the football team - a dozen boys aged between 11 and 16 and their 25-year-old coach. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days.

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Friday's death of the former SEAL underscores those risks.

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.

Kunan, 38, was returning from delivering oxygen tanks to the cavern where the boys are when he ran out of air while underwater. "Everyone is a professional so we're trying to put it away and avoid it happening again", said the Finn, who is a long-term resident of Thailand.

The governor has said the 13 may not be extracted at the same time, depending on their condition.

More than 100 exploratory holes have been bored - some shallow, but the longest 400 metres deep - into the mountainside in an attempt to open a second evacuation route and avoid forcing the boys into a unsafe dive through submerged tunnels.

They have practised wearing diving masks and breathing in preparation for the diving possibility.

But the meteorological department warned that up to 60 percent of the country's north, including Chiang Rai, can expect heavy rain from July 7 to July 12. Rescue crews have assessed that the ongoing effort to pump water out from the main entrance of the cave has reached a point where it's becoming less and less effective, and placing pumps further inside the cave - beyond the 800 meter mark, where they now are - does not seem possible.

Narongsak said experts told him flooding from new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square meters (108 square feet). That could take months, however, given that Thailand's rainy season typically lasts through October.

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