There may be a secret passage out of the cave in Thailand where a youth soccer team has been trapped for 11 days, it emerged today.
The boys aged 11 to 16 told rescuers they have heard dogs barking, roosters crowing and children playing despite being 800 metres underground.
This has led officials to think there may be another way out through a ‘chimney hole’ to the surface.
Thai officials are preparing to decide which of the boys (pictured) trapped in a flooded cave will swim for their lives – and which will stay behind
Officials think there may be another way out through a ‘chimney hole’ to the surface. Pictured: Water is drained from the cave
Australian Federal Police (AFP) Specialist Response Group (SRG) divers continue to assist the complex and ongoing cave rescue operation underway in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Family members pass time near the Tham Luang cave complex, where members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach have been found alive
Chiang Rai provincial governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is overseeing the rescue, said 30 teams are searching for an airhole
Chiang Rai provincial governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is overseeing the rescue, said 30 teams are searching for an airhole. He believes there must be one for the boys to have been able to breathe for so long.
If rescuers can drill down to the boys, that would offer an alternative to teaching them how to swim and scuba dive so they can be led to safety through the flooded cave.
The 2.5km swim through mud-clogged water would be ‘extremely dangerous,’ experts say, but the boys have already started diving practice as rescuers race against time to get them out before more monsoon rains cut them off.
‘We are racing against time before we found them,’ Osotthanakorn said at a press conference on Thursday morning. ‘Now we are racing against water.’
On Wednesday Mr Osatanakorn said that ‘all 13 may not come out at the same time.’
He said authorities will evaluate their readiness each day and if there is any risk will not proceed.
The boys aged 11 to 16 told rescuers they have heard dogs barking, roosters crowing and children playing despite being 800 metres underground. Pictured: Police at the scene
Team work: Thai soldiers are pictured carrying equipment as they make preparations for what will be a tense rescue operation
The youngsters aged 11 to 16 and their 25-year-old coach were on Monday found alive by British volunteer divers John Volanthen and Rick Stanton after nine days lost in the Thamg Luang cave network in the country’s north, which they reportedly entered as part of an initiation ritual. Pictured: Rescue workers in the cave complex on Wednesday
Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel talk each other near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped
‘If the condition is right and if that person is ready, 100 per cent, he can come out,’ he added.
It comes after a new video was released showing the boys in good spirits after 11 days underground.
The boys and their coach are seen sitting with Thai Navy Seals in the dark cave with their visibly skinny faces illuminated by the beam of a flashlight.
The youngsters, many wrapped in foil warming blankets, take turns introducing themselves, folding their hands together in a traditional greeting and saying their names and that they are healthy.
The minute-long video was recorded some time on Tuesday and was posted on the Navy Seal Facebook page on Wednesday morning.
The boys and their 25-year-old coach disappeared after they went exploring in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Chiang Rai province after a football game on June 23.
The 12 boys and their coach are seen sitting with Thai Navy Seals in the dark cave with their visibly skinny faces illuminated by the beam of a flashlight
Rescue workers are seen by the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Chiang Rai province
The teammates, who were trapped inside when heavy rains flooded the cave, were found by rescue divers late on Monday night.
A desperate search drew experts from around the globe, including British divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, who were the first rescuers to reach the group.
Authorities said the boys, who had also been shown on Tuesday in a video shot by the British divers, were being looked after by seven members of the Thai Navy Seals, including medics, who were staying with them inside the cave.
They were mostly in stable condition and have received high-protein drinks.
In both of the videos, the boys have appeared in good spirits.
A desperate search for them drew assistance from experts around the globe
Workers bring supplies for the trapped boys, who were trapped inside when heavy rains flooded the cave
British volunteer divers John Volanthen and Rick Stanton were among those who struggled through narrow passages and murky waters to search for the boys, who were found starving but unhurt on an elevated rock on Monday
‘He was a sad boy’: Trapped Thai football coach lost all his family to illness and became a monk
Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, is trapped in the cave with his 12 young players.
When he was just 12, he lost his seven-year-old brother, mother and father as an illness spread though his home.
His aunt said he was a ‘sad and lonely’ boy until he was sent a to Buddhist monastery where he gained mental strength.
He has reportedly been teaching the boys to meditate to help keep them calm in the cave.
Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, is trapped in the cave with his 12 young players
His aunt said he was a ‘sad and lonely’ boy until he was sent a Buddhist monastery where he gained mental strength. Pictured: The coach with his players
The coach has reportedly been teaching the boys to meditate to help keep them calm in the cave
The youngsters were on Monday found alive by British volunteer divers John Volanthen and Rick Stanton after nine days lost in the Thamg Luang cave network in the country’s north, which they reportedly entered as part of an initiation ritual.
Officials were facing a stark choice to either keep the terrified boys in the pitch-black cave for up to four months until the water level subsides or teach them how to dive and guide them out through narrow passages and murky waters.
With heavy monsoon rains expected which could cut the boys off from help and supplies, they have taken the ‘unbelievably dangerous’ option to chaperone them 1.5miles to the cave entrance through water likened to ‘cold coffee’.
The 12 teenagers and their 25-year-old coach were found alive by British volunteer divers John Volanthen and Rick Stanton on Monday after nine days lost in the Thamg Luang cave network (pictured) in the country’s north
While efforts to pump out floodwaters are continuing, some Thai officials have indicated that heavy rains forecast for this weekend could force them to decide the boys should swim and dive out using the same complicated route of narrow passageways through which their rescuers entered
A Thai army medic slips as his comrades carry a stretcher during a training exercise as rescuers work at the scene in Thailand
Rescuer workers prepare small diving masks to deliver to the youngsters inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave
A Thai navy officer carries a pig’s head to worship celestrial guardians and spirits as the rescue operations for the child soccer team and their coach continue
Family members of the 12 boys and their soccer coach watch a video clip of 12 boys on television after they were found alive, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province
Thai Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda has said the boys’ only chance is to swim out through the flooded underground network and that swimming lessons will start on Wednesday or Thursday.
He said on Wednesday: ‘There are no other options besides getting them out through the flooded passages.’
Thai Navy Seal Chief Admiral Aphakorn Yoo-kongkaew has vowed to reunite the 12 boys with their families and said the operation would only begin when the youngsters are mentally ready and physically fit.
Huge pipes have been placed in the tunnel network in the hope of lowering the level of water in the cave network
Authorities said the boys, who had also been shown Tuesday in a video shot by the British diver who discovered them, were being looked after by seven members of the Thai navy SEALs, including medics, who were staying with them inside the cave. They were mostly in stable condition and have received high-protein drinks
Concerned family members are escorted by police close to the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand today
He said on Wednesday: ‘Anyone who is ready first will be brought out. They will be brought out gradually. Safety is the priority.
‘The first plan is to reduce the water level and get them out but if we can’t, we will have a backup plan.
‘It may be four months, one month or one week. There’s no need to hurry.’
Rescuers Wednesday morning carried a rehearsal of evacuating the 12-stranded schoolboys from the flooded Thamg Luang cave.
Soldiers from the Thai Army practiced escorting the youngsters to a make-shift hospital set close to the entrance of the cave.
Volunteers, posing as the 12 stranded footballers, were taken to a triage area for a medical examination.
Thai police and soldiers are pictured as rescue operations continue for 12 boys and their coach trapped at the Tham Luang cave
A family member smiles near the Tham Luang cave complex after new video emerged showing the boys laughing and joking
Thai rescue personnel work to pump water from the Tham Luang cave. Teams have been pumping 10,000 litres of water out of the caves every hour. But this is only enough to lower the level by one centimeter
Thai soldiers carry supplies as they walk down the hill leading up to Tham Luang cave as rescue operations continue for 12 boys and their coach
They were then transported by ambulance down the muddy, mountain track to hospital in Mae Sia, in a simulation of a real emergency plan.
Meanwhile huge volumes of water are being pumped out of the cave network as rescuers frantically try to evacuate the boys before their window of opportunity is closed by the monsoon rains.
The forest clearing by the entrance to the cave has become a media village with dozens of news organisations from across the world anticipating the rescue.
Make-shift kitchens are dishing out hundreds of meals to volunteers, police officers, soldiers and rescue workers.
Rescuers are sent inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave network as rains continue to stream down raising fears the boys will be trapped for a long while
A Thai rescuer prepares oxygen tanks for diving after the 12 boys and their soccer coach were found alive in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province
Family members watch news about the rescue operation at a makeshift camp at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park
On Tuesday, Thai officials said they are waiting for the youngsters to regain their strength before possibly moving them out ‘in the coming days.’
Belgian diver Ben Reymenants, the owner of Blue Label Diving in Thailand who is assisting the search, revealed to Sky News that the boys left their backpacks and shoes ‘before wading in and trying to go to the end of the tunnel, sort of like an initiation for local young boys to… write your name on the wall and make it back.
‘Now a flash flood because of sudden heavy rain locked them in.’
Teams have been pumping 10,000 litres of water out of the caves every hour. But this is only enough to lower the level by one centimeter and more rain is forecast sparking fears it will threaten the air pocket where the team has taken refuge.
‘What day is it?’: Transcript reveals amazing moment rescuers reached football team who had no idea they had been trapped for nine days
A transcript of the conversation between rescue divers and the trapped children, who spoke to their British rescuers in broken English, revealed the youngsters had no idea what day it was or how long they’d been missing.
Rescuer: How many of you [are there]?
Rescuer: Thirteen? Brilliant!
Rescuer: There’s two of us…. we had to dive.
Rescuer: We’re coming, it’s ok. Many people are coming. We are the first.
Children ask what day it is
Rescuer: Monday. One week and Monday. You have been here 10 days. You are very strong, very strong.
Rescuers urge them to go back from edge of water. Divers then swim over to their side.
Rescuer 2: That is just the most amazing timing.
Children: What day you come help me?
Rescuer 1: We hope tomorrow.
Rescuer 2: Navy Seals will come tomorrow with food, doctor and everything. Today you have a light? We will give you more lights.
A lot of rummaging around and darkness.
Rescuer 1: We are happy too (in response to inaudible comment)
Children: Where you come from?
Rescuer 2: England, UK