Thai Soccer Team Missing: Search For Boys Trapped In Cave Enters 7th Day

Thailand Cave Rescue For Missing Soccer Team
Families of the missing wait at the entrance of Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand on June 29, 2018. Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images

The search for a missing Thai youth boys soccer team has entered its seventh day, raising fears for the boys and their coach. The team apparently hiked into the Tham Luang Nan Non caves June 23 and become trapped by rising flood waters. The Wild Boars team consists of 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25 year old coach.

The team had explored the caves, a popular hiking spot for tourists and locals, in the past. They began their hike about 1 p.m. local time that Saturday. Hours later, a park ranger in the Chiang Rai province noticed their bikes still chained up at the entrance of the caves long after the park had closed and alerted authorities, according to CNN. Due to heavy rains, floodwaters had risen inside the cave, possibly cutting off the team's only escape route and making access to the cave difficult for rescuers.

The Thai government has gone to great lengths to find the missing boys. They have asked search and rescue teams from the United States military, as well as underwater cave experts from the UK, to help locate the boys and their coach, TIME reported on Thursday. Divers of the Thai Navy SEALS have swum three miles into the cave, while drones have swept the six mile stretch of cave looking for heat signatures.

Rescuers Search a Possible Entrance
The rescue operation persists as Thai rescue specialists assist a Thai Airforce soldier in descending into a possible opening to the Tham Luang cave in the Chiang Rai province on June 30, 2018. Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images

With each passing day, fears have increased about the boys' survival.

"Physically, it's not a hard cave, it's just very long and it has big passages, small passages," Vernon Unsworth, British cave expert and Chiang Rai resident told CNN, "It's not difficult but if the children have gone in too far then the floodwaters from the far end will be coming through. With the rain, it's not making it any easier."

The mud, floodwater, and narrow passageways throughout the cave have proven difficult for even trained divers to navigate, The New York Times reported on Friday. The Tham Luang caves are a vast network of passageways and possible dry chambers, with signs warning visitors to stay away during the rainy season.

Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, visited the rescue site on Friday and told families, who have been camped outside the caves since the disappearance, to have faith, CBS News reported on Friday.