THAILAND’S prime minister has visited the flooded cave complex where rescuers have been searching for 12 boys and their football coach missing for six days and urged their relatives to not give up hope.

“There has to be faith. Faith makes everything a success,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the country’s military ruler, told families waiting outside the cave.

“Faith in the actions of officials. Faith in our children who are strong and vigorous. Everything will go back to normal.”

The boys, ages 11 to 16, and their coach entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave after a football game last Saturday, but near-constant rains in the days since have thwarted the search for them.

Authorities have nevertheless expressed hope the group has found dry places within the cave to wait, and that they are healthy enough to stay safe.

Muddy floodwaters reached near the entrance of the cave yesterday despite days of efforts to drain the water.

Rescuers kept working outside the cave, trying to find hidden shafts in the green mountainside to access different parts of the sprawling underground complex.

Crews were also working to drill wells that could drain the water, which would allow divers to advance into passages filled with water at or near their ceilings.

Despite the hard work, rescuers progress was fitful at best.