BANGKOK, Nobody seems to know as yet how many days it might take until the 12 schoolboys and their football coach who are trapped inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand can be brought out safely, says a senior government official.

Rescuers have prepared equipment and mapped out plans to evacuate the 12 soccer players, aged between 11 and 16 years, and their 25-year-old coach from the Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non cave in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province, about 860 kilometres north of Bangkok, where they have been trapped since June 23.

A team of experienced British divers found the boys alive and safe after they had dived about three kilometres deep in the cave's strongly-flowing subterranean water, said Chiang Rai Province Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn.

Although rescuers cannot predict how much longer it will take for the boys to be evacuated safely, the governor said they would certainly not do anything rash which might jeopardize the safety of the evacuees.

Navy Seal divers and paramedics have taken turns to closely take care of the boys who looked exhausted at a dry spot of the flooded cave with food, medicine and supplies.

The governor commented that rescuers could not as yet tell how soon the boys can be brought out safely because of "difficulties" in doing so.

The subterranean water in the cave is flowing so strongly that it has discouraged the rescuers from putting the safety of the boys at risk, according to Narongsak, who is in charge of the rescue mission.

"For the time being, we cannot tell how many days it might take until the boys can be evacuated from the cave safely," he said.

While waiting for the streams to subside, the Navy Seal divers are teaching the boys to dive with oxygen masks in preparation for a planned evacuation, he said.

Source: NAM News Network