Right now, an underwater tunnel is the only way out for 12 boys and their soccer coach who have been trapped deep in a Thai cave for almost two weeks.
Thailand's Navy SEAL commander on Friday said rescuers may have little choice but to attempt the tricky extraction of the group, the first official admission that the 12 boys and their coach might not be able to wait out the monsoon underground.
The navy is teaching the boys the basics of diving, with a view to guiding them out through flood waters. However, cave rescue specialists have cautioned against that approach except as a last resort, because of the dangers it poses.
The statement Friday said: "We are impressed with the courage and strength the young boys and their coach have shown despite the scary circumstances they find themselves in".
It finished with the message: "To our soccer family in Thailand, we wish to express our support and love, and we hope the boys and their coach will be together soon with their families".
British cave-divers John Volanthen walks out from Tham Luang Nang Non on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
The players remain trapped despite being reached this week by cave-diving rescuers, who released footage of them looking emaciated but calm, some wearing football shirts.
An honour guard carries the coffin of Samarn Kunan, 38, a former member of Thailand's elite navy SEAL unit who died working to save 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped inside a flooded cave, at an airport in Rayong province, Thailand, July 6, 2018.
"On behalf of the worldwide football community, I would like to join you in expressing my deepest sympathies and support to the families of the players and coach, as well as my solidarity with the people of Thailand at this time of great concern", he wrote. Billionaire inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk said Friday engineers from his SpaceX & Boring Co. were heading to Thailand to see if they could help. There has been no immediate official reaction to his plans.
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"The boys are not suitable ...(they) can not dive at this time", governor Osottanakorn told reporters.
The letter says the team's appearance at the final would "undoubtedly be a wonderful moment of communion and celebration".
Yoo-Konkaew said that current levels add more urgency to getting the boys out of the cave, despite obvious risks in taking them out right now.
The man, retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Saman Kunan, was one of the volunteers who chose to work tirelessly to help the trapped soccer team.
"At first we thought we could sustain the kids' lives for a long time where they are now, but now many things have changed", said R Adm Arpakorn Yookongkaew, the Thai navy Seal commander. "We have limited amount of time", he said.
He did not elaborate.
Osottanakorn said the boys have learned to dive and are in good health, but the rescue mission won't kick into action even if the skies open up Friday night because it's still too risky given the amount of water in the caves and that the plan needs to be tested.
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