Thai officials believe 12 boys missing in caves are still alive

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Twelve boys and their football coach are still missing after two days in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand, but officials remain hopeful they are still alive.

The boys, aged 11-15, are believed to have entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province with their 25-year-old coach on Saturday afternoon. A mother reported that her son did not return from practice that day, setting off the search.

Chote Narin, an officer at Mae Sai district police station, said: “We are still searching right now.

“We’ve found traces but no people yet.”

The boys' abandoned bicycles
Bicycles left by a group of missing boys lean against a railing (AP)

Navy divers are trying to reach a large chamber deep inside the cave complex where officials thought the students might be. The chamber is about two and a half miles from the entrance of the cave, which is thought to be about four to five miles long.

The cave, cut into a mountainside in far northern Thailand near the border with Burma, is a local tourist attraction but can flood severely during Thailand’s rainy season, from June to October.

Football boots
A pair of football shoes are left next to bicycles from a group of missing boys (AP)

Kamolchai Kotcha, an official at the forest park where the cave is located, said attempts to reach the chamber had failed as the passage is extremely small, “flooded and covered with sand and mud”.

Footage on Thai television showed bicycles, backpacks and football equipment left outside the entrance to the cave. The area was filled with soldiers and rescue personnel, while Buddhist monks offered prayers.

According to Kamolchai, tourists trapped in the cave by past floods have been rescued after the water receded a few days later.

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