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Thai Prime Minister Visits Site of Cave Rescue Attempt


Thai soldiers searching for the missing children and their coach march out of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand on June 29, 2018.

Nearly a week has gone by since a group of boys and their soccer coach, who had gone exploring in a sprawling cave complex in northern Thailand, were last heard from, but their families received words of encouragement Friday from the country's prime minister.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the boys' families, who have been staying near the Tham Luang cave complex during the rescue attempt. The cave complex runs 10 kilometers under a mountain in Chiang Rai province, which borders Laos and Myanmar.

"There has to be faith. Faith makes everything a success," Prayuth said to families standing outside the cave Friday. "Faith in the actions of officials. Faith in our children who are strong and vigorous. Everything will go back to normal."

He added that he considers the boys "my own children, too," before leading a group meditation.

Soldiers carry a pump to help drain the rising floodwater in a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been missing in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, June 29, 2018.
Soldiers carry a pump to help drain the rising floodwater in a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been missing in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, June 29, 2018.

A week ago, the 12 boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old soccer coach entered the cave after a Saturday afternoon game. It was the last time the group has been heard from.

Rainstorms and mountain runoffs have hampered rescue efforts since. On Friday, floodwaters reached the mouth of the cave, despite rescuers' attempts for the past several days to drain it with high-voltage pumps.

Media initially reported that a man had been electrocuted Friday, but medical workers and Chiang Rai provincial Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn quickly denied those reports, saying a rescue worker had simply fainted.

International help has also reached the site, with the U.S. Pacific Command on-site, exploring all possible options for the quickest extraction of those trapped.

"The rain is unpredictable but you also have the human element. Twenty-four-hour operations. It's amazing to see the Thai authorities coming together and all the volunteers here supporting the rescue operation," said U.S. Air Force Captain Jessica Tait, public affairs officer for the 353rd Special Operations Group.

WATCH: International Aid for Thai Soccer Team Trapped in Cave

International Aid for Thai Soccer Team Trapped in Cave
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The relief aid being delivered to the site near the cave has grown with each day, as volunteers cook meals and offer supplies to growing crowds.

Panya Kong Jaidee, a volunteer cook, said, "I want to give energy and support for the rescue teams that are going inside the caves since I can't go in and help them myself."

Local teacher Cherchoo Poompanya, who taught six of the students, said, "At school, we are letting the students meditate and pray and giving each other support for the missing students."

Steve Sandford in Chiang Rai province, Thailand, contributed to this report.

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