Twelve boys and their football coach found alive after 10 days trapped deep inside a flooded cave will have to bear their ordeal for a while longer, as rescuers work out an exit plan, the governor of Chiang Rai province said on Tuesday (Jul 3).
Divers struggled through narrow passages and murky waters to discover the boys late on Monday night on an elevated rock about 4km from the mouth of the cave.
Rescuers now have to decide how best to get the group out in their weakened state. Much-needed food and medical supplies - including high-calorie gels and paracetamol - reached them Tuesday as rescuers prepared for the possibility that they may be there for some time.
"If you ask me now while we are still assessing all sides then I don't think they will be home soon," Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters.
The group's health was assessed overnight by medical teams which will continue to check the health of the group, said Narongsak, explaining that the boys had sustained light injuries.
"We categorised their health condition as red, yellow or green, red being the most severe injuries, yellow being mild and green being light. Yesterday, unofficially, we assessed that most are in the green category," said Narongsak.
Narongsak said rescue workers would now focus on the "rescue" phase and then a handover to medical teams waiting outside the cave.
He added that doctors have advised on the types of medication required to prevent infection and other illnesses.
"We will prepare to send additional food to be sustained for at least four months and train all 13 to dive while continuing to drain the water," Navy Captain Anand Surawan said, according to a statement from Thailand's Armed Forces.
A video shot by rescuers on Monday in flickering torchlight revealed boys clad in shorts and red and blue shirts sitting or standing on the rock above an expanse of water.
"How many of you are there - 13? Brilliant," a member of the multinational rescue team, speaking in English, tells the boys. "You have been here 10 days. You are very strong."
"Thank you," one of the boys says.
One of the boys asks when they will get out of the cave, to which the rescuer answers: "Not today. You have to dive."
Two British divers, John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, were first to reach the boys, having had strong experience in cave rescues, according to Bill Whitehouse, the vice chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC).
They found the stranded group along with a team of Thai navy SEAL divers.
News of the boys' survival was greeted with jubilation nationwide by Thais who have followed every twist of the harrowing story.
Aged between 11 and 16, the boys went missing with their 25-year-old coach after football practice on Jun 23 after they set out to explore the Tham Luang cave complex in a forest park near Thailand's northern border with Myanmar.
A complex operation is expected in trying to bring the group several kilometres through the cave - which is still partially submerged and is linked by tight passages.
Worrying predictions of heavy rains later this week mean rescuers must scramble to shuttle help and supplies to the stranded kids.
At 10km long, Tham Luang cave is one of Thailand's longest and one of the toughest to navigate, with its snaking chambers and narrow passageways.
A sign outside the site warns visitors not to enter the cave during the rainy season between July and November.