After the absolute joy of learning that the missing Thai soccer team had been located deep within the Tham Luang cave complex, a certain degree of reality has set in: they need to get them out somehow. And that could take months.

The military are facing the prospect of somehow bringing the twelve boys and their 25-year-old coach through the labyrinthine series of underwater tunnels which make up the cave complex. It’s no easy task, even though most of the boys are in a stable condition. Basically, they’re looking at either instructing the trapped boys on how to dive, or waiting up to four months for the water to recede.

None of the boys can swim or dive, which obviously presents a huge challenge given the level of flooding in the cave network. The good news is that none of the boys are seriously injured.

“We categorised their health condition as red, yellow or green, red being the most severe injuries, yellow being mild and green being light. Yesterday, unofficially, we assessed that most are in the green category,” said Chiang Rai provincial Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn.

“[We will] prepare to send additional food to be sustained for at least four months and train all 13 to dive while continuing to drain the water,” Navy Captain Anand Surawan said via a statement.

Rescuers are pumping water in huge volumes out of the cave, fully aware that more rain is scheduled over the coming few days.

Anmar Mirza, the US National Cave Rescue Commission co-ordinator, told the Associated Press that while the cave tunnels are relatively simple by the standards of other, similar caves, it’s still a huge ask for people with no experience in diving:

Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most dangerous situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy […] if the dives are difficult then supply will be difficult, but the risk of trying to dive them out is also exponentially greater.

It’s been revealed that two British divers, John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, were the first to reach the trapped team. They were operating as part of a large international effort to search the Tham Luang complex for the team, who went missing back on June 23. This included efforts by the Australian Federal Police.

Medics successfully reached the team, and doctors have advised they be provided with several kinds of medicine to “prevent infection and other illnesses.”

Speaking to The Guardian, Australian cave diving expert Peter Wolf warned that the whole rescue process would be a “logistical nightmare” and it was fairly likely the whole process would take months:

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. But the cave divers they’ve got over there are some of the most experienced in the world, especially when it comes to search and rescue operations.

So it’s a miraculous relief the boys were found – but there’s still a lot of work to do to actually extract and rescue them.

Image: Supplied