Mae Sai (Thailand), July 1: At least 12 boys along with their assistant football coach was trapped in a flooded cave for the eighth straight night. A round-the-clock search began after there was a bit improvement in the weather. Rescue teams attempted to reach deeper into the chambers of Tham Luang cave in the hope of locating the children and the coach after they remained stranded for over a week as they were blocked due to heavy rains. Also Read - Planning to Visit Thailand? You Will Have to Stay There For At Least a Month Under New Rules!

Despite the tireless effort and international assistance, there has been no contact with the group since they were reported missing, and monsoon rains have complicated the rescue by blocking passageways. But an ease in the rough seasonal weather near Thailand’s borders with Myanmar and Laos has buoyed hopes that divers will be able to reach deeper into the recesses of Tham Luang’s 10-kilometre-long (six-mile) passageway. Also Read - World Elephant Day 2020: Over 200 Elephants in India Kept in Severely Inadequate Conditions, Says World Animal Protection

“I’m feeling happy like I’ve never felt in a long time. Many good signs,” the football team’s head coach Nopparat Khanthavong, 37, told AFP today. Also Read - Defying Government Ban on Public Gatherings Amid COVID-19, Thai Gay Activists Raise Pride Flags in Protest

“The rain has stopped and rescue teams have found potential ways to reroute the waterway,” diverting its flow so no more enters the cave, he said. “The families are feeling much better too.” The desperate search has been beset by downpours that submerged tunnels near the entrance, but Thai Navy SEAL divers reached a T-junction in the cave’s depths yesterday — just two or three kilometres from where the boys are believed to be.

Some divers have put out a call for oxygen tank donations to help replenish their stock and make the operation more fluid.

“Because the diving distance is about two to three kilometres, we need divers to plant (oxygen tanks) sporadically to provide them with air to breathe from time to time until they reach the destination,” diver Narinthorn Na Bangchang , who is assisting the effort, told AFP yesterday.

The dramatic wait has transfixed Thailand, dominating front pages of newspapers and grabbing international headlines. Teams of foreign experts from Australia, England, Japan and China, including more than 30 US military personnel, have descended on the remote mountainous site to join some 1,000 Thai rescuers.

Outside the main entrance other searchers were trying to find a way into the cave through two separate chimneys, and rescue personnel conducted mock operations in case they should find the boys and need to rush them to hospital. Large water pumps were also installed in a nearby village to drain water from the area.

Tham Luang is one one of Thailand’s longest and toughest caves to navigate. Officials said the boys know the site well and have visited many times before, buoying hopes that they may have found an airy passage to seek shelter in.

Rescuers found footprints and handprints in a chamber earlier in the week, further in from where they had found the kids’ football boots, backpacks and bicycles.

With PTI Inputs.