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MAE SAI, Thailand – A top Thai official said Tuesday that heavy rains forecast for the coming days could worsen floods in a mountain cave, forcing authorities to speed up their extraction of the 12 boys and the soccer coach who are trapped there.
Officials early said the 13 are mostly in stable medical condition and have received high-protein liquid food after they were located late Monday night in the cave in northern Chiang Rai province during a desperate search that drew international help and captivated the nation.
Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said Tuesday that the boys may need to swim out using diving equipment ahead of bad weather forecast for later in the week. He said the boys would be brought out via the same complicated route through which their rescuers entered.
While efforts are to pump out the floodwaters continue, Anupong said it's clear some areas cannot be drained and in order to get out, the boys may need to use diving gear while being guided by two professional divers each. He conceded that if something went awry, it could be disastrous.
"Diving is not easy. For people who have never done it, it will be difficult, unlike diving in a swimming pool, because the cave's features have small channels," he said. "If something happens mid-way it could be life-threatening."
Video released early Tuesday by the Thai navy showed the boys in their soccer uniforms sitting on a dry area inside the cave above the water as a spotlight from a rescuer illuminated their faces.
Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said the health of the boys and coach were checked using a field assessment in which red is critical condition, yellow is serious and green is stable.
"We found that most of the boys are in green condition," he said. "Maybe some of the boys have injuries or light injuries and would be categorized as yellow condition. But no one is in red condition."
Cave rescue experts have said it could be safer to simply supply them where they are for now, rather than attempting to have the boys dive out. That could take as long as months, however, given that Thailand's rainy season typically lasts through October.