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Space adventurer joins Thai cave rescue bid amid warnings of ‘limited time’

BILLLIONAIRE Elon Musk has announced he is sending engineers to Thailand to see if they can help bring out the members of a youth football team trapped in a flooded cave as authorities admitted they face a race against the clock to save them.

Tesla and Space X boss Mr Musk (pictured above) threw his hat in the ring after a Twitter user pleaded for him to help the 12 boys and their coach, who have been underground for almost two weeks.

In a series of tweets, Musk said his Boring Co, which digs tunnels for advanced transport systems, has advanced ground penetrating radar, and brainstormed that an air tunnel constructed with soft tubing like a bouncy castle could provide flexible passage out.

He said his engineers needed to be on site to appreciate the complexities of evacuation. There has been no immediate official reaction to his plans yet, but there is increased desperation surrounding the rescue operation after a diver died during the bid to free them.

Rescue mission: Boys from the football team who are trapped

Officials are racing against worsening weather and lowered oxygen levels in the underground complex in the country’s north.

The massive operation inside and around Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province suffered its first fatality early this morning when a former Thai navy Seal passed out underwater on an overnight mission and was unable to be revived.

‘We can no longer wait for all conditions (to be ready) because circumstances are pressuring us,’ Thai Seal commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew told a news conference.

‘We originally thought the boys can stay safe inside the cave for quite some time but circumstances have changed. We have a limited amount of time,’ he said.

Hero: A picture of Saman Poonan who died trying to save the boys PICTURE: REUTERS

The oxygen levels inside the cave were getting lower because of all the workers inside and authorities were working to run an oxygen line inside the complex that was in addition to the oxygen canisters used by divers, Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said.

A senior army commander, Major General Chalongchai Chaiyakam, said that the most pressing mission now is to provide an oxygen line to reach the children, who are stuck deep in the complex but are being looked after by four Seals, including a medic.

He said the oxygen line is also tied to a telephone line that will provide a channel of communication for the children.

The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach went exploring in the cave after a football game on June 23.

All hands: Soldiers carrying a pump are battling against rising water levels in the cave network

Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days as the only way to reach them was by navigating a series of dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.

Authorities have been racing to pump out water from the cave before more storms hit the region in the coming days and send water levels rising again.

At this time though, the only way for the boys to get out of the cave is by diving, something cave rescue experts warn is extremely dangerous even for those with experience.

Today’s death of the former Seal underscores those risks.