Thai youth soccer team could have to dive out of caves or wait months to be rescued

Rescue workers in Thailand who successfully located the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a cave for 10 days are now racing against time to get them out before water levels rise.

Rescuers had earlier suggested that they would wait for water levels to drop, which could take until October, but heavy rains forecast for later this week could flood the cave even further, meaning the boys, ages 11-16, face the prospect of having to move quicker than anticipated.

Teams have been pumping about 2,600 gallons (10,000 liters) of water out of the caves every hour, but have so far only been able to lower the level by 1 centimeter. Water in the cave is about knee-deep but is neck-deep in the chamber, according to the Thai English-language website Khaosodenglish.com.

In this grab taken from video provided by the Thai Navy Seal, a view of the boys and their soccer coach as they are rescued in a cave, in Chiang Rai in Thailand, Monday, July 2, 2018.  Rescuers found all 12 boys and their soccer coach alive deep inside a partially flooded cave in northern Thailand late Monday, more than a week after they disappeared and touched off a desperate search that drew international help and captivated the nation. (Thai Navy Seal via AP)

In this grab taken from video provided by the Thai Navy Seal, a view of the boys and their soccer coach as they are rescued in a cave, in Chiang Rai in Thailand, Monday, July 2  (Thai Navy Seal via AP)

Anupong Paojinda, the Thai interior minister, has said that the boys might have to learn to dive in order to escape the tunnels, which are so narrow in parts that only one body can pass through at a time. None of the boys knows how to swim and even elite Thai Navy SEAL divers have been finding the ability to navigate through muddy waters difficult.

“As rain is forecast in the next few days, the evacuation must speed up. Diving gear will be used,” he told the Bangkok Post. “If the water rises, the task will be difficult. We must bring the kids out before then.

“Diving is not easy. Those who have never done it will find it difficult, because there are narrow passages in the cave. They must be able to use diving gear. If the gear is lost at any moment, it can be dangerous to life.”

In this grab taken from video provided by the Thai Navy Seal, a view of the boys and their soccer coach as they are rescued in a cave, in Chiang Rai in Thailand, Monday, July 2, 2018.  Rescuers found all 12 boys and their soccer coach alive deep inside a partially flooded cave in northern Thailand late Monday, more than a week after they disappeared and touched off a desperate search that drew international help and captivated the nation. (Thai Navy Seal via AP)

In a race against time, rescuers were hurrying to pump water out of the cave on Tuesday, as rainfall was expected to increase on Wednesday  (Thai Navy Seal via AP)

Anmar Mirza, national coordinator of the National Cave Rescue Commission in the U.S. and editor of the book Manual of U.S. Cave Rescue Technique, told the AP that “trying to take non-divers through caves is one of the most dangerous situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy.”

Diving is not easy. Those who have never done it will find it difficult, because there are narrow passages in the cave. They must be able to use diving gear. If the gear is lost at any moment, it can be dangerous to life

- Anupong Paojinda, Thai interior minister

THAILAND YOUTH SOCCER TEAM, COACH FOUND ALIVE IN CAVE AFTER MASSIVE SEARCH

The boys must be safely extracted from nearly a mile of tunnels, most of which are underwater. They could use the same narrow passages out that their rescuers found, but such a task is very dangerous for a novice.

In this handout photo released by Tham Luang Rescue Operation Center, Thai rescue teams walk inside cave complex where 12 boys and their soccer coach went missing, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Monday, July 2, 2018. Rescue divers are advancing in the main passageway inside the flooded cave in northern Thailand where the boys and their coach have been missing more than a week. (Tham Luang Rescue Operation Center via AP)

In this handout photo released by Tham Luang Rescue Operation Center, Thai rescue teams walk inside cave complex where 12 boys and their soccer coach went missing, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Monday, July 2  (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Another option is for rescuers to drill into the chamber and airlift them out. The British Cave Rescue Council, which has members taking part in the rescue operation, estimates that the group are around 1.2 miles into the cave and around 0.6 miles below the surface. But other estimates put the boys as far as 2.5 miles into the caves. An airlift plan would be difficult because the cave stretches under a mountainside for up to 6 miles and varies in elevation.

The final rescue plan will be made by Thai authorities, who say they are committed to “100 percent safety.”

Family members smile after hearing the news that the missing 12 boys and their soccer coach have been found, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Monday, July 2, 2018. A Thai provincial governor says all 12 boys and their coach have been found alive in the cave where they went missing over a week ago in northern Thailand. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Family members smile after hearing the news that the missing 12 boys and their soccer coach have been found, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

The British Cave Rescue Council, which has members taking part in the rescue operation, estimates that the group are around 1.2 miles into the cave and around 0.6 miles below the surface. But other estimates put the boys as far as 2.5 miles into the caves

“We worked so hard to find them and we will not lose them,” said Chiang Rai provincial Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn.

The team entered the Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai province, located in the northern part of the country on June 23 after soccer practice, but became trapped when heavy rains flooded key passages. 

Thai rescuers prepare for diving after the 12 boys and their soccer coach were found alive, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Tuesday, July 3, 2018. The 12 boys and soccer coach found after 10 days are mostly in stable medical condition and have received high-protein liquid food, officials said Tuesday, though it is not known when they will be able to go home. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Two Thai divers speak after the boys were found; Rescuers have been able to lay a guideline down so that others could follow them and help deliver essential supplies to the group  (AP)

British divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, described as the “A Team” of rescuers, according to The Daily Mail, located the boys 10 days after they went missing, about 300-400 yards past a section of the cave that was on higher ground and was thought to be where the team members and their coach may have taken shelter, Thai provincial governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said.

They were able to lay a guideline down so that others could follow them and help deliver essential supplies to the group.

A Thai rescuer walks near where water is pumped from a flooded cave after  all 12 boys and their soccer coach were found alive, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Tuesday, July 3, 2018. Rescuers found the boys and their coach alive deep inside a partially flooded cave in northern Thailand late Monday, more than a week after they disappeared and touched off a desperate search that drew international help and captivated the nation. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

A Thai rescuer walks near where water is pumped from a flooded cave after all 12 boys and their soccer coach were found alive, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province  (AP)

When a boy from the team asked when they can exit the cave, a rescuer responded “Not today. You have to dive."

Family members of the boys will be able to speak to their loved ones by phone on Tuesday thanks to a telephone line taken into the cave by SEALS, according to Khaosodenglish.com. The boys are all said to be in a stable medical condition, although some have minor injuries.

Despite the breakthrough, which was received with cheers and smiles from relatives of the boys, as well as euphoria around Thailand, Navy chief, Adm. Naris Pratoomsuwan, said “helping the kids will take time.”

Richard Stanton, left, and John Volanthen arrive in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Tuesday, July 3, 2018. The 12 boys and soccer coach found in a partially flooded cave in northern Thailand after 10 days are mostly in stable medical condition and have received high-protein liquid food, officials said Tuesday, though it is not known when they will be able to go home. (AP Photo)

Richard Stanton, left, and John Volanthen arrive in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand; the divers helped locate the boys 10 days after they went missing in the caves  (AP)

“From the operations center in the third chamber to where they were found, it takes about three hours to get there and three hours to come back,” he said.

The boys were able to survive the harrowing ordeal by drinking the water that fell from stalactite formations. 

The boys went missing along with their 25-year-old coach after training on June 23, when they set out to explore the caves in the forest park. Police in Thailand said on Tuesday they will look into whether the coach could be faced with legal action for leading them into the cave.

A soldier walks in Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 1, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun - RC1362E7F240

Rescuers have been pumping 10,000 liters of water every hour, but that has only been enough to decrease levels by 1 centimeter. Heavy rains are expected Wednesday.  (REUTERS)

Fox News’ Travis Fedschun, Chris Irvine, AP and Reuters contributed to this report.

Benjamin Brown is a reporter for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bdbrown473.