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Dangerous exit dive only way out for boys

It now seems swimming with SCUBA gear through muddy water in the dark cave is the only exit - with added urgency to begin before rain raises the water again. This demonstration of swimming through murky water makes it appear even easier than the test that lies ahead for the Wild Boar football team to reach the outside world safely. (Photo via YouTube/welder4fun)

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Coming rain may force boys to swim for safety

Bringing 12 weakened boys who can't swim or dive and their football coach out of flooded Tham Luang cave remains a perilous prospect given the extreme conditions -- strong currents, mud, zero visibility and at least a 2.5-kilometre swim -- cave-diving experts said last night.

As the nation continued to rejoice at the news of all the boys, who are aged 11-16, being found alive at 9.38pm on Monday night after an exhausting 10-day search, spirits were dampened at the prospect of having to keep them in the labyrinthine cave network in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district for up to four more months due to the coming monsoon.

Cave-diving expert Ben Raymenants, who was 400 metres behind the two Britons who located the boys just beyond "Pattaya Beach", said the weather would be "the deciding factor" regarding which exit strategy would be deployed.

If the pumping operations are a success and the water levels in the cave drop, then alternatives may be found.

However, with more heavy rain forecast over the coming days, authorities said Navy Seals and cave diving experts would begin teaching the boys how to swim and dive either from today or tomorrow.

Navy Seal Chief Rear Admiral Aphakorn Yoo-kongkaew vowed to bring them all out safely so they could be reunited with their families. He said they would be brought out when they were mentally ready and physically fit for the potentially punishing journey home.

"It may be four months, one month or one week. There's no need to hurry," he said.

"The first plan is to reduce the water level and get them out but if we can't, we will have a backup plan," he added.

"Anyone who is ready first will be brought out. They will be brought out gradually," he added. "Safety is the priority."

The third chamber inside the cave network has now been transformed into a rescue operation command centre stocked with life-saving equipment, diving gear, food and medical supplies, he added.

He said the whole team is now safely in the hands of seven Seal divers, a military doctor and a nurse from the Royal Thai Navy's underwater medicine unit, who have volunteered to stay with them for as long as it takes, even months.

High-energy food and rejuvenating mineral salts were given to them so they can rebuild their strength after 10 days with almost no food or fresh water.

In the event of rising water levels, at least four days of food supplies have been prepared and 70 oxygen tanks sent in, officials said.

Phone cables were brought into the area so the boys could contact their parents.

More than 1,000 rescuers continued with frantic efforts to pump water from the cave. As of 11am Tuesday, the water level at the cave's entrance was 39 centimetres. About 300 metres deeper inside the cave it had dropped to 20cm.

Deputy Chiang Rai governor Passakorn Boonyalak replaced outgoing governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn in supervising the operation Tuesday.

His Majesty the King has endorsed an order transferring Mr Narongsak to serve as the governor of the smaller province of Phayao, assistant government spokeswoman Col Taksada Sangkachantra said.

However, he will stay in Chiang Rai until the mission is completed, she said.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said the 13 footballers would be brought out of the cave through the passage leading to its main entrance.

They may have to dive some sections, especially through a narrow section where close escort is not possible. If this option is chosen, they would have to use diving gear by themselves and pass through one after another, Gen Anupong said.

"Diving is not easy. Those who have never done it will find it difficult, because there are narrow passages in the cave. They must be able to use diving gear. If the gear is lost at any stage, it could be perilous," he said.

Except for narrow holes, two divers would escort each of the boys. Rescuers have already formulated an evacuation plan, Gen Anupong said.

"As rain is forecast in the next few days, the evacuation must be sped up. Diving gear will be used. If the water rises, the task will be difficult. We must bring the kids out before then," he said.

Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital in Muang district of Chiang Rai has arranged a ward where all 13 team members could be cared for, with accommodation for 54 of their relatives, Dr Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, public health inspector-general, said.

All of the team are in good condition but they are in need of proper nutrients. They have been in the dark for some time and their eyes need to adjust to normal light. They would therefore need the protection of sunglasses, he said.

The boys must regain their strength first. None of them know how to swim, Dr Thongchai said.

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Vocabulary:

chamber : a space in something (in a body, in a plant, a machine, etc, which is separated from the rest - ช่อง

current : a strong movement of water in one direction - กระแสน้ำ

dampened : made something less strong, large, etc. - ทำให้อ่อนกำลังลง

deploy : to put in place ready for use - นำมาใช้

escort : a person or group of people or vehicles that travels with somebody/something in order to protect or guard them - คนคุ้มครอง

evacuation : moving people from a place of danger to a safer place - การอพยพ

frantic : done quickly and with a lot of activity -

gear : the special clothes or equipment that you use for a particular activity - อุปกรณ์ ในการทำกิจกรรมต่างๆ

gradually : slowly and in small stages or amounts - อย่างทีละน้อย

hurry (verb): going fast, doing something quickly - รีบ, รีบเร่ง, รีบไป

labyrinthine (adj): complicated and difficult to find your way through - ซับซ้อน,ยุ่งยาก

monsoon : the season of heavy rain during the summer in hot Asian countries - มรสุม

narrow : not wide; having a small distance from one side to the other, especially in comparison with the length - แคบ

nutrient (noun): a substance that is needed to keep a living thing alive and to help it to grow - ธาตุอาหาร, สารอาหาร

perilous : very dangerous - เต็มไปด้วยอันตราย, ซึ่งไม่น่าปลอดภัย

priority : something important that must be done first or which needs more attention than something else - การมาก่อน

prospect (noun): the possibility that something will happen - ความคาดหวัง, โอกาส, ความหวังข้างหน้า อนาคต

pumping (noun): making a liquid or gas move into or out of something by using a pump - การสูบน้ำ

punishing : causing severe damage   -

rejoice : to feel very happy about something, or to celebrate something in a happy way - ดีใจ, ปลื้มใจ, มีความสุข

rejuvenate : to make someone look or feel young and energetic again - ทำให้กระปรี้กระเปร่า

strategy : a plan or method for achieving something, especially over a long period of time - ยุทธวิธี, แผนการ  

visibility : how clearly objects can be seen, or how far you can see clearly, usually because of the weather conditions - ทัศนวิสัย

volunteer : to offer to do something without being forced to do it - อาสา

ward : a separate room or area in a hospital for people with the same type of medical condition - แผนกในโรงพยาบาลที่มีคนไข้ประเภทเดียวกัน

weaken (verb): to make somebody/something less strong or powerful; to become less strong or powerful - ทำให้อ่อนลง, ทำให้อ่อนแอ

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