Thai cave rescue operation underway

Thai cave rescue operation underway

Expert divers Sunday rescued four of 12 boys from a flooded cave in northern Thailand where they were trapped with their soccer coach for more than two weeks, as a unsafe and complicated plan unfolded amid heavy rain and the threat of rising water underground.

The Thai official in charge of the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach says they're physically ready and mentally determined for their extraction now underway from a partially flooded cave.

Last month, twelve members of the Wild Boars soccer team-and their 25-year-old coach-became trapped in the flooded cave when they went exploring after soccer practice.

Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days.

Chiang Rai governor and operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said at a press conference Sunday that he had met the children and they were in "perfect" health. By then, the group had spent 10 days cut off from the outside world. He said his native province Chiang Rai has hills and caves.

Thai Navy SEALs and global divers worked together to rescue four boys trapped in the Thai caves on Sunday. The first is expected to reach safety at 9 pm on Sunday (10 am ET) at the earliest.

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Of the 13-strong foreign dive team - mainly from Europe - three escorted the children, while the remainder were positioned along the unsafe first kilometre stretch, where the boys had to navigate through submerged passageways in some places no more than two feet (0.6 metre) wide. The team's coach also offered his "apologies" to the parents in a separate letter.

According to our correspondent, Thai officials have warned the rescue could take three or four days in the worst case scenario. They are being taken to the field hospital and will later be taken to the Chiang Rai hospital, as per a local official quoted by Reuters.

The governor has called the rescue a "war with water and time". "Finding the boys doesn't mean we've finished our mission".

The identity of the first boys is unknown, as if whether any more are following soon.

"This is probably some of the most hard diving there is" in the rescue operation, she said, "and this is the rainy season" with constant fears of more flooding and perilous currents. Earlier efforts to pump water out of the cave have been set back by heavy downpours.

"Night loves Dad and Mom and brother, don't worry about me", wrote another boy in the Thai manner of referring to one's self in the third person.

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