For the first time since they got trapped in a cave in Thailand that flooded on June 23, 12 stranded boys and their soccer coach have had food brought to them. Divers reached the group inside the cave Tuesday, and along with food they brought a doctor and a nurse who are providing health checks and medical treatment, the BBC reports. Officials say all 13 are healthy, the AP reports; a diver tells Sky News they were weak after having had no solid food and surviving only on water. The group was found alive Monday, on a rock shelf inside an air pocket in the cave. But getting them out is no easy task, as it is believed most of them can't swim; they would need to don scuba diving masks and then navigate sharp turns and narrow passageways studded with sharp rocks and flooded with muddy, zero-visibility water and debris. Experienced divers would lead them to the exit using ropes, USA Today reports.
But more heavy rain is in the forecast, which could cause water levels to rise further, threatening the safety of the air pocket. If the group does not swim out, they could be stuck in the cave for four months; the rainy season could last until October or November, and it will take time for the waters to recede. Two Thai navy doctors have volunteered to stay with the boys for months in such a situation. Meanwhile, rescue teams are looking for another way into the cave that could provide an easier exit, officials are trying to reduce the risk of further flooding by pumping water from the cave system, and a phone line is being installed so the boys' families can speak to them. Experts who spoke to USA Today say the challenges facing the "life or death" operation are immense; while diving lines have been laid and air supplies ferried in, even the rescuers themselves are undertaking risky dives every time they swim to reach the boys. (Read more Thailand stories.)