MAE SAI, Thailand — The effort to locate 12 boys and their soccer coach missing in a cave in Thailand for a week picked up pace Saturday, as a break in the rain eased flooding in the system of caverns and more experts from around the world joined the rescue mission.

The search effort in the northern province of Chiang Rai has been going slowly, largely because flooding has blocked rescuers from going through chambers to get deeper into the cave.

Pumping out water hasn’t solved the problem, so increasing efforts have been made to find shafts on the mountainside that might serve as a back door to the blocked-off areas where the missing may have taken shelter.

The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered the sprawling Tham Luang Nang Non cave after a soccer game on June 23, but near-constant rains have thwarted the search for them. Authorities have nevertheless expressed hope that the group has found a dry place within the cave to wait, and that they are still alive.

Reflecting that hope, a medical evacuation drill was held Saturday morning to see how long it would take to get rescued people out of the cave, into 13 ambulances and to the nearest hospital.

Australian police and military personnel were deployed Saturday to join other multinational teams, including U.S. military personnel and experts from a British cave exploration club.

China sent a six-person team of rescue and disaster experts to the cave, the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok announced Friday.