Boys, coach in stable health after 10 days lost in Thai cave

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Rescue divers cleared a key hurdle Sunday in the increasingly desperate search for 12 boys and their soccer coach who went missing in a cave in northern Thailand more than a week ago, officials said.

Now that rescuers have found the boys alive and in good condition, they are giving them high protein liquid food and antibiotics.

In the meantime, doctors will conduct medical checks on the boys and attempts were being made to set up a phone line for the boys to speak with their parents, Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osotthanakon said.

Progress has been slow as divers need to widen parts of a narrow 100 metre stretch that they were unable to pass through without their air cylinders becoming jammed. The system is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) long, and one of the most hard cave systems to navigate due to narrow passages and winding tunnels.

Experts have said the safest option could be to supply the 12 boys and their coach where they are and wait for the water levels to drop. An official Australian group has followed a USA military team, British cave experts, Chinese lifesaving responders and several other volunteer groups from various countries.

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The soccer players, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach disappeared when flooding trapped them after entering the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai on June 23.

One child asks "what day?" and another says "we are hungry. shall we go outside?" "Monday. You have been here - 10 days". "We hope we can help", said Wang Lin, the head of the group.

Members of the U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific Search and Rescue team meet with rescue teams from China, Thailand and Australia as they plan a search operation in northern Thiland, July 2, 2018.

Late Monday Chiang Rai provincial governor broke the news of their rescue, delighting a nation which has anxiously followed every twist and turn of the effort to save them.

"Everyone is coming together to figure out the next course of action and how to bring them out as safely and as quickly as possible", Tait said.

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"From chamber three to the intersection and then onto Pattaya Beach, this area is all flooded and dark", Apakorn said.

So far we just found them.

He said other efforts will continue, such as draining water from the cave and exploring the mountainside for shafts and other entrances to the caverns below.

Chaiwat Dusadeepanich of the Department of Groundwater Resources said Saturday that his team, which has been drilling for two days, found a small underground water source near the cave.

"I confirm they are all safe", Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters on Monday night. Even if the boys were taught diving skills, taking them out of the cave would still be risky. Thailand's rainy season lasts until October, and the cave is regularly flooded.

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The mountainside was also combed for fissures that might lead to shafts. An official Australian group has now followed a USA military team, British cave experts, Chinese lifesaving responders and several other volunteer groups from various countries. Each package contains food, beverages, a phone, a flashlight, candles, a lighter and a map of the cave.

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