Thailand cave rescue: Operation underway to bring boys out of cave

The boys and their coach. /COURTESY

A risky mission to rescue 12 Thai schoolboys and their soccer coach trapped inside a flooded cave for more than two weeks began on Sunday.

Narongsak said the first boy was expected to be brought out of the cave by around 9:00 pm (1400 GMT), meaning the trip would take around 11 hours. The earliest divers will emerge is 9pm on Sunday (10pm WST), but a Thai official says the rescue of all the boys could take up to four days.

A diver will be assigned to each of the boys and their 25-year-old coach, Ekapol Chanthawong.

The rescued four boys are at a hospital near the cave.

"People are certainly picking up their moods in terms of how optimistic they are and how well this mission will conclude".

Four Thai soccer players are the first to be successfully rescued from a flooded cave hours after a complex and risky rescue mission commenced, according to Thai navy SEALS.

'The U.S.is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety.

Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that engineers from two of his companies, the aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and the tunnel-construction company Boring Company, were headed to Thailand to lend their assistance.

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Divers are guiding the 12 boys and their coach through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the Tham Luang cave system. Several ambulances were seen coming to and from the cavesite.

A Royal Thai Police helicopter carrying rescued schoolboys lands at a military airport in the northern Province of Chiang Rai, Thailand on July 8, 2018. The other boys have not been identified yet.

Duncan Forgan of NBC News reported the rescue operation to free the eight remaining players and their coach is ongoing, while those evacuated from the cave were transported to medical facilities. Some sections of the cave require climbing equipment, and one section that has been flooded by stormwater is so narrow that divers must remove their oxygen tanks to get through.

There will likely be at least 12 hours of radio silence after the divers commence their rescue mission, which means that their prospects of success will not be known until midnight or later, Australian time.

According to our correspondent, Thai officials have warned the rescue could take three or four days in the worst case scenario.

But the Chiang Rai governor supervising the mission, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said earlier that mild weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation that won't last if it rains again.

Thai officials said Saturday they are anxious that heavy monsoon rain could soon make the job even more hard and they may need to quickly rescue the boys and the soccer coach from a partially flooded cave by helping them make risky dives to safety. Levels have fallen from 15 percent to 20 due to the presence of rescue workers in the cave, reports said.

The preparations indicated that officials have abandoned all extraction plans except for helping the boys to swim and dive the approximately 5km from their refuge inside the cave to the outside world.

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