Thailand’s deputy PM has said he is optimistic a group of young footballers trapped inside a cave are still alive, as the search enters a third day.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their coach entered the cave in Chiang Rai province on Saturday.
Navy divers sent into search resumed their efforts on Tuesday after rising waters halted the search.
They had reportedly seen fresh footprints inside the cave complex, raising hopes for the group’s safety.
The BBC’s Jonathan Head, who is at the scene, said the authorities have started pumping from pools outside the cave, to try to bring the water levels down.
Constant rainfall is hampering these efforts, says our correspondent.
“We are still optimistic they are all alive,” Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Tuesday.
“Even though they may not have anything to eat, they should have water to drink.”
The Tham Luang Nang Non cave is a tourist attraction which runs for many kilometres underground.
The boys and their 25-year-old coach are thought to be in a chamber of the extensive cave network.
But rescue efforts, which include a 17-member unit of the Royal Thai Navy and underwater drones, have been hampered by rising waters and poor visibility inside the cave.
The search was briefly halted but navy divers were able to re-enter the cave early Tuesday.
Desperate relatives have been camping out at the cave, which lies near the border with Myanmar, holding a prayer ceremony for their safe return.
“My child, I’m here to get you now,” one crying parent said, according to AFP.
How was the team trapped?
The team and their coach are believed to have entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on Saturday afternoon.
Rescue workers began searching for them on Saturday night after they were reported missing. They found bicycles along with sports equipment outside the cave.
According to the Bangkok Post, visitors must cross a small stream to enter the cave, making it inaccessible if the stream floods.
The cave can flood up to 5m (16ft) during Thailand’s rainy season, which runs from June to October.
Rescue teams were preparing to train the team to use scuba gear, in case they had to dive out through areas of the cave which were completely submerged, according to local officials.
Source: BBC news