Boys trapped in Thailand cave can't swim, could be stuck for months

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (CBSNews) -- Rescue crews are still trying to figure out how to bring 12 boys and their soccer coach to safety, after they were discovered inside a cave in Thailand Monday. They were discovered after they went missing more than a week ago.

Doctors have been brought in to assess which boys may be strong enough to attempt to wear dive masks and swim out of the flooded cavern.

It would be a dangerous attempt, since none of the boys know how to swim. They were found in a dry section of the Tham Luang cave complex at least two and a half miles from the entrance. The water is 16 feet deep in some places and the boys would have to swim through narrow passageways to escape, potentially without oxygen tanks. Another option is to leave the boys inside until flood waters recede but that could take weeks or even months.

"This is a Thai-led multinational rescue operation, and what's beautiful here in this next phase is you're seeing everyone come together thinking about this problem set," said Capt. Jessica Tait of the U.S. Air Force. "What is the best possible way to get, you know, these kids and the coach out? But what is the safest way?"

In the meantime, a phone line is being installed inside the cave so the young soccer players can finally talk to their relieved parents after being separated for more than 10 days. The first thing the boys asked for when they were rescued was food and they are now being fed a high protein diet to regain their strength. A Thai Navy Seal commander says a team of seven, including a doctor, is staying with them.

Outside of the cave, there's a staging ground for the rescue operation, including military personnel and ambulances waiting for whenever the boys are brought out of the cave. An army of first responders and volunteers are also working around the clock. Thai officials say no expense will be spared to get the boys to safety.

Rescuers are closely watching the forecast, which calls for more rain over the weekend. Rescue crews may have to accelerate their timeline in order to get the boys out before the cave floods again.

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