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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 28 January, 2020
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Over 100 'chimneys' drilled into mountain in bid to reach trapped boys

The boys and their coach have been trapped for nearly two weeks.

Emergency rescue teams gather in the staging area as they continue the search for a young soccer team and their coach.
Emergency rescue teams gather in the staging area as they continue the search for a young soccer team and their coach.
Image: AP/PA Images

MORE THAN 100 chimneys are being drilled into the mountainside in a frantic bid to reach a Thai youth football team trapped in a cave complex below, the head of the rescue mission has said this morning.

The unprecedented rescue effort is attempting to establish new ways to extract the boys from above, if the underground chambers flood and it is deemed too risky to remove the team by diving out through the submerged passageways.

“Some (of the chimneys) are as deep as 400 metres… but they still cannot find their location yet,” Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters, adding the mission lacked the technology “to pinpoint where they are staying”.

“We estimate that (they) are 600 metres down, but we don’t know the (exact) target,” he said.

On the question of dipping oxygen levels in the cave, he said rescuers had managed to establish a line to pump in fresh air and had also withdrawn non-essential workers from chamber three — where the rescue base is — to preserve levels inside the cave.

The “Wild Boar” team have been trapped inside the Tham Luang cave complex for two weeks.

Meanwhile, the boys have written short notes in the gloom, reassuring parents and relatives, making affectionate jokes and expressing hopes of being reunited in the near future.

“Love to Mum, Dad and my little brother,” reads one note from 15-year-old Phiphat Photi — who is better known as “Nick” — published along with the other letters given to a diver on Friday and released the next morning on the Thai Navy Seal Facebook page.

“If I get out, please can you bring me some grilled pork and vegetables?”

“I love you, Dad, Mum and my sister. You don’t need to be worried about me. I love everyone!” wrote Pheerapat, nicknamed “Night”, who turned 16 underground.

The letters provoked a surge of emotion from families, who first endured nine long days before their children were found dishevelled and emaciated but alive on Monday — and now face an agonising wait for a dangerous evacuation.

“I am so happy to see his letter, his handwriting. I’m almost crying,” Night’s mother Supaluk Sompiengjai told AFP.

“It doesn’t matter how long I wait as long as he is safe.”

She may have some way to go.

It is still unclear how the boys will be rescued from the range of dangerous options on the table, as the country holds its breath hoping for good news.

© – AFP, 2018

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