Soldiers work outside Tham Luang, while divers moved further inside the cave in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai, on Sunday. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
Divers have made progress as they venture deeper into Tham Luang to locate 12 young footballers and their coach stranded somewhere in the flooded, labyrinthine cave since last Saturday.
Maj Gen Suppachok Thawatpeerachai, the deputy commander of the Army Third Region, told an afternoon press briefing that divers had moved about 600 metres forward from the third chamber of the cave in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai.
On Saturday night, divers were only able to progress 200 metres from the chamber before they were beaten back by rising floodwaters.
The chamber is roughly half way along the two-kilometre-long distance from the mouth of Tham Luang to a T-junction. From there, divers will swim left toward an area of high ground known as Pattaya Beach, where the missing children may be sheltering from the water flooding into the cave.
Oxygen tanks have been transported into the cave to provide emergency respiration to the 13 people when they are located. The Navy Seal unit said on Saturday that compressed air tanks are being installed at 25-metre intervals forward of the third chamber to supply air to divers.
“We have deployed an offensive plan. We will not wait for the water level to go down,” it said.
Naval Special Warfare Command chief Rear Admiral Apakorn Yukongkaew said earlier that divers are determined to moving forward until the mission is accomplished.
Divers have been using the third chamber as a temporary operational base inside the cave.
Rescuers explore fissures on the mountain, hoping to find shafts that lead down into Tham Luang cave. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
About 60 navy and foreign divers were now inside the cave, Kobchai Boonyaorana, the deputy director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, told the media on Sunday.
The operation to find the trapped teenagers and their trainer entered its eighth day on Sunday. They were reported missing after entering the cave on June 23.
Chiang Rai governor Narongchai Osotthanakorn said rescuers made progress on Sunday thanks to a break in the rain, calling it one of the best days since the mission began. “Weather conditions are being friendly to us,” the governor said in the briefing.
Rescuers are still combing the mountain above the cave in search of fissures that could provide an alternate access point to the cave from above — but so far, none of the shafts have led anywhere.
“We never ignore any suggestions we’re given about the location of shafts. Every hole that seems to point downwards we explore every one,” Maj Gen Suppachok said.