Rescue teams near entrance to flooded cave
Rescue teams near entrance to flooded cave REUTERS

Rescue teams working to free members of a youth soccer team trapped deep inside a flooded cave in Thailand have succeeded in recovering a fifth child, as heavy rains complicate rescue efforts.

Thirteen members of the junior soccer team – including 12 children and their coach – have been trapped in the Tham Luang cave for more than two weeks.

The team disappeared after entering the cave on June 23rd for a group hike.

The group was led by 25-year-old coach Ekapol Chantawong, and includes 12 team members ranging in age from 11 to 16.

A diving team first located the children on July 2, nine days after they went missing.

A large-scale rescue operation was launched Sunday to bring the entire team out of the cave. The boys and their coach were given diving lessons in preparation for the dangerous journey through the treacherous waters.

Four boys were rescued from the cave on Sunday, with expert divers helping the children navigate their way through the tight passages of the flooded cave in near-total darkness.

The first rescue attempt was cut short, however, after authorities were forced to spend hours replenishing the search and rescue teams air tanks.

On Monday, divers began the second rescue attempt, and successfully recovered a fifth boy.

Officials in Thailand say the full rescue mission could take up to four days to complete, and could be complicated by stormy weather forecast for the area.

Five Thai divers and thirteen foreign divers are participating in the rescue mission. Each child is accompanied by two divers during the journey out of the cave, which involves swimming through narrow, dark tunnels with sudden turns and twists.

The rescue was considered critical due to falling oxygen levels in the cave as well as the new rainfall which is expected this week and would cause the cave to flood even further.