The weekend weather forecast has provided an ominous deadline for rescuers scrambling to get 12 young soccer players and their coach out of a flooded cave in northern Thailand. The area has been dry for days but heavy rains are expected to hit soon, potentially driving water levels up, thwarting rescue efforts, or even flooding the dry spot the boys fled to after heavy rains cut them off from the cave system's exit on June 23, the BBC reports. "We are racing against time before we found them," Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said early Thursday. "Now we are racing against water."
Experts believe waiting for the waters to recede could be the safest option, but that could take months. The boys are getting diving lessons and unless efforts to find a shaft in the jungle above the cave succeed, rescuers are expected to try to get the boys out within days, starting with those best able to make the difficult journey through narrow tunnels. The military has been running hundreds of pumps in an effort to lower the water level enough for the boys to simply walk out, though one major chamber remains flooded to the ceiling, the Guardian reports. Rescuers are also trying to install an Internet cable so the boys can communicate with their parents. "It's like he has been given a new life," the mother of a 16-year-old in the cave tells the AP. She says if he makes it out, she will never let him go near a cave again. (Read more Thailand stories.)