Latest News

Young boys, coach found deep in Thai cave

Twelve boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old soccer coach have been found deep inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand after being trapped for nine days, local officials say.

The group were exploring the Tham Luang Nang Non on June 23 when flooding brought by monsoonal rain blocked their path out of the complex cave system and continued rain hampered rescue efforts to find the group.

But late on Monday rescue teams finally located the group with Thai Navy video footage showing them huddled together quietly on a dry area inside the cave still wearing their soccer kit with their legs bent in front of them.

"You are very strong," one of the rescuers says to them in English.

One of them asks what day it is, and the rescuer responds, "Monday. Monday. You have been here 10 days".

It had been an international effort to find the team, involving cave diving experts from the Australian Federal Police, Thai Navy Seals and search and rescue crews from the US, China and Britain.

Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn confirmed the group of 13 had been found but warned they were not out of danger yet.

"We found them safe. But the operation isn't over," he said.

"When the medics have evaluated the kids to see if their health is in good condition, we will care for them until they have enough strength to move by themselves, and then we will evaluate the situation on bringing them out again later."

Family members of the missing hugged each other as they cheered the news.

Rescue divers had spent much of Monday making preparations for a final push to locate the group.

In addition to divers, teams had been working to pump water out as well as divert groundwater, while other efforts focused on finding shafts on the mountainside that might serve as a back door to the blocked-off areas.

Teams have also been combing the mountainside looking for fissure that might lead to shafts.

Narongsak said they located the missing boys about 300 to 400 metres past a section of the cave that was on higher ground and was thought to be where the team members and their coach may have taken shelter.

Thailand's prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked the international experts who had helped in the search.

His office said the PM "wishes to thank the tremendous efforts of all international units that have come to assist the Thai authorities in rescuing the youth football team that was stuck in the caves in Chiang Rai.

The Royal Thai Government and the Thai people are grateful for this support and co-operation, and we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery".

© AP 2018