Australians join effort to rescue Thai boys lost in cave

Australians are on their way to Chiang Rai aboard a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 transport aircraft.AAP: SGT Ray Vance

Australian police rescue experts and defence force personnel are on their way to Thailand to assist the search for a group of boys missing in a flooded cave.

Key points: Australia is working closely with the Thai Government and the Royal Thai Army Thai Government dispatches more than 10,000 soldiers to carry out rescue operation Additional experts from around the world have also joined the mission

The soccer team of 12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, along with their 25-year-old coach, entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai on June 23 but no contact has been made with them since.

Six AFP Specialist Response Group members, who have search and rescue and cave diving skills, are on their way to Chiang Rai aboard a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 transport aircraft.

Australia's foreign affairs, defence and home affairs ministers said in a joint statement late on Saturday that Australia was working closely with the Thai Government and the Royal Thai Army, who are leading the search operation.

The ADF has also deployed an official to the rescue command centre in Chiang Rai as a specialist liaison officer to provide operations and planning expertise.

Photo The boys and their coach left bicycles and other belongings at the entrance to the cave.

Bicycles left by a group of boys and their coach who went missing line the entrance to a cave in northern Thailand AP: Tassanee Vejpongsa

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officer was also deploying with the AFP rescue team to assist with coordination.

Rescuers, including Thai navy divers, a US military team and British cave experts, have been hampered by incessant rain that has flooded the cave.

Additional experts from around the world, including two Chinese teams, have also joined the rescue mission.

James Wang, a member of the Chinese rescue team Green Boat Emergency Organisation, believed they could help with the operation.

"We have the skill to the rescue cave and the skill of SRT, single rope technology. So I think, in this environment we can do something for the children," he said.

Photo Rescuers gather in the staging area to search for the team missing since Saturday.

Members of the emergency rescue team talk in the staging area as they continue the search for a young football team AP: Tessanee Vejpongsa

Another Chinese team has brought underwater drones and 3D imaging, though so far the floodwater has been too murky for it to be effective.

The Thai Government has dispatched more than 10,000 soldiers to carry out the rescue operation.

The rescue effort has three strands: divers are trying to swim through the flooded caves to search for the missing team; soldiers are looking for fissures that may provide more ways in to the complex, and engineers are pumping out millions of gallons of water.

AAP/AP

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