Divers of the rescue operation in Tham Luang cave (Photo: Thai NavySEAL/Facebook)

Hanoi (VNA) – Challenges to the rescue of the 12 young footballers and their coach trapped inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand, exceeded what officials and experts had projected, rescue operation chief Narongsak Osoththanakorn said on July 7. 

The former Chiang Rai Governor said at a press conference in front of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave that it had been very hard to find the football team, but it is now even more difficult to bring them out of the cave.

Narongsak Osottanakorn, who was recently appointed Governor of Phayao province, said the biggest challenge is seeking solutions to get them out of the cave because all current plans are facing big obstacles.

He told reporters earlier the same day that it is "not suitable" to make the boys dive to safety yet. There were no plans to pull the boys and their coach out overnight but if monsoon rains fell and water rose in the Tham Luang cave over the coming days, they could change their plans.

Thailand's Navy SEAL commander earlier said rescuers may have "limited time" to attempt the tricky job of getting the group out, the first official admission waiting out the monsoon period in the cave may not be possible. 

Meanwhile, rescuers are speeding up the drilling of over 100 shafts into the mountainside in a bid to seek a safer rescue solution. However, there haven’t been any shafts reaching the team’s location.

Narongsak Osottanakorn said some of the shafts are as deep as 400 metres but they cannot still find their location yet. The rescue team estimate that the trapped persons are 600 metres down, but the mission lacks the technology to pinpoint where they are staying.

On fears that oxygen levels in the cave is dropping, he added rescuers have managed to establish a line to pump in fresh air and also withdrawn unessential workers from the cave to preserve levels inside the cave.

The boys – members of the Wild Boars football team between the ages 11 and 16 – had been exploring the cave network with their soccer coach on June 23, when heavy seasonal rains flooded the cave's entrance, forcing the group further and further into the labyrinth of tunnels in search of higher ground.

They were found alive on July 2 after 10 days of being trapped in the flooded cave complex.-VNA