The search for 12 boys and their soccer coach missing in a cave in Thailand has entered its sixth day.
On Friday Thailand’s Prime Minister visited the flooded cave where rescuers have been searching, urging relatives not to give up hope.
“There has to be faith. Faith makes everything a success,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the country’s military ruler, told families waiting outside the cave.
“Faith in the actions of officials. Faith in our children who are strong and vigorous. Everything will go back to normal.”
The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their coach entered the sprawling Tham Luang Nang Non cave after a soccer game on Saturday afternoon local time, but near-constant rains since then have thwarted the search for them.
Authorities have nevertheless expressed hope the group has found a dry place within the cave to wait, and that they are healthy enough to stay alive.
Muddy floodwaters reached near the entrance of the cave Friday despite days of efforts to drain the water. Rescuers kept working outside the cave, trying to find hidden shafts in the green mountainside to access the cave complex.
Other crews were working to drill wells in hopes of draining the water, which could allow divers to advance into flooded passages. Despite the hard work, rescuers’ progress has been fitful at best, with no guarantee the water will soon recede with months left in Thailand’s rainy season.
Authorities have warned that the rising water is complicating efforts to supply electricity to the cave, raising the risk of an accident. There appeared to be a mishap Friday when workers ran out of the cave saying rescuers had been injured and to shut off the power. Several ambulances then rushed people from the site.
At least one police official initially said men had been electrocuted, but medical workers at the site said that wasn’t the case. Instead, they said a man had fainted while working on a water pump, prompting the scare, and another man had a stomach ailment.
Thai navy SEAL divers had been able to work underwater on Thursday. The divers have oxygen tanks but still must have enough space between the water and the cave ceiling to surface for air and to ensure their safety in the muddy waters that fill rocky passages, some so tight the divers must bend their bodies to advance through them.
Above ground, four shafts have been located that might allow access to the cave and rescuers were continuing to explore them on Friday.
Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said one shaft had showed promise, leading to a chamber below, though it wasn’t clear if it connected to the main cave.
Officials said they were also dropping “care packages” into the shafts in case they reach the cave. The packages contain food, beverages, a phone, a flashlight, candles and a lighter. They also include a map of the cave.