CHIANG RAI: Eleven football players and a coach were believed to have been trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Mae Sai district of this northern border province, and a search and rescue team was trying to find them.
The cave is located in the Thaluang-Khun Nam Nang Non National Park in tambon Pong Pha of Mae Sai district, about one kilometre from the Mae Sai-Chiang Rai road.
The cave is famous for its stalactites and stalagmites. Tourists must walk down and cross a small creek before they can enter the cave, which is closed to visitors when the creek's water level is high enough to cause run-off into the cave.
At about 7pm on Saturday, national park officials found a motorcycle and 11 bicycles left in front of the cave, with backpacks, football shoes and other sports equipment left in their baskets. The officials contacted the leader of the local football team in tambon Pong Pha, who confirmed that they belonged to 11 football players and the coach.
The players usually practice at the football field in Ban Pong Pha every weekend. On Saturday, after training, witnesses saw the coach and the football players enter the cave.
The park officials went about 3 kilometres into the cave to look for them, but had to abandon the search when heavy rain threatened to make the creek overflow and block their exit.
They believed the football players and the coach were still in the cave.
The officials asked the Ruam Jai Mae Sai search and rescue team for assistance but were told they did not have the equipment required for a water rescue operation. Instead, they turned to the Sirikorn rescue team in Chiang Rai for help.
The team from Chiang Rai town arrived on Sunday morning with the necessary rescue equipment and went into the cave. The search was ongoing.