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Twelve boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old soccer coach have been found huddled on a dry ledge deep inside a dark, flooded cave in northern Thailand after being trapped for almost 10 days.

Rescuers said they believed the boys could stay alive by drinking fresh water in the cave, either dripping in through rocks or rushing in through the entrance. It was most likely dry when they entered, but rushing waters later clogged the way back with mud and debris. Local and global rescuers, including a team of Thai navy divers and cave experts, had spent days trying to locate the team, but muddy waters complicated efforts and blocked access to the chambers of the cave complex. Still, the British Cave Rescue Council said, "Any attempt to dive the boys and their coach out will not be taken lightly because there are significant technical challenges and risks to consider".

The search for the group had gripped the nation as it was unclear where they were or whether they even were still alive.

Boys from an under-16 soccer team and their coach wait to be rescued after they were found trapped inside a flooded cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 3, 2018, in this still image taken from Thai Navy Seal handout video.

After an initial exchange in which a rescuer determines that all 13 are present, one of the boys asked what day it was, and a rescuer replied: "Monday. Monday. You have been here - 10 days". "They have not yet reached 'the (Pattaya) beach, '" Narongsak said.

Rescue divers had spent much of Monday making preparations for a final push to locate the group.

"I confirm they are all safe", Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters on Monday night.

"From chamber three to the intersection and then onto Pattaya Beach, this area is all flooded and dark", Apakorn said.

The heavy seasonal rains hampered the search operation, with divers groping their way along the cave walls, barely able to see in the muddy water, but the pumps had helped to bring down water levels in recent days.

The length of the cave and the conditions that they're actually diving in means there are probably very few people on the planet who can actually get those provisions to them.

The Thai military has confirmed that they are preparing for long-term food supplies and diving training for the group. Thailand's rainy season typically lasts through October.

Worldwide rescue teams from Australia, Britain, United States and China had all joined with Thai Navy seals to find the boys and their coach.

Narongsak said medical teams had been sent inside the cave and it would take them around four hours to assess the group's health and how fit they are before coming up with a strategy to get them out.

Hopes were also high for finding some kind of access through fissures on the mountainside that might lead to shafts into the cave. An official Australian group has now followed a United States military team, British cave experts, Chinese lifesaving responders and several other volunteer groups from various countries. The Thai navy is already doing this short-term, sending teams with high-protein liquid food to feed the boys, keep them company and explore the cave infrastructure where they are to ensure it is safe.