Foreign elite divers and Thai Navy SEALS on Sunday morning began the complex operation to extract the 12 boys and their football coach as they raced against time, with imminent monsoon rains threatening more flooding that would doom the mission.
Authorities in northern Chiang Rai province began the unsafe mission to bring out the 12 boys and their coach earlier on Sunday.
Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osotthanakorn said at a press conference four boys are safely in the hands of doctors.
However, a statement issued by the rescue operation earlier said that they couldn't confirm how many children would be brought out in this first stage of the rescue, "due to the complex nature of the cave and difficulty of the operation". After emerging from the cave, they were taken in an ambulance to be evacuated from the cave site via helicopter.
Eight of boys and the coach remained inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex as authorities paused the global effort until Monday to replenish air tanks along the treacherous exit route.
A Thai governor says the operation to bring out 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach from deep inside a cave where they have been trapped for two weeks has begun.
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To make matters worse, rescuers are facing a "war with water and time" as risky monsoon storms and torrential rainfall could derail the mission.
Narongsak said earlier on Sunday the mission may take three or four days to complete.
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Somboon Sompiangjai, 38, the father of one of the trapped boys, said parents were told by rescuers ahead of Sunday's operation the "strongest children" would be brought out first. It takes several hours.
According to Thailand's interior minister, same divers who rescued 3 students and the coach on Sunday night will conduct the next operation as they are aware of the cave conditions.
"It has been raining incredibly heavy, we've had these huge monsoonal rains that have hit overnight", Channel Nine's Alice Monfries said this morning.
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Local and global media in Thailand are reporting two of the 12 boys trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave have been successfully rescued after nearly two weeks.
The boys had to learn the basics of swimming and diving before they could start the 2.5 mile journey.
Narongsak said Saturday that experts told him new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square meters (108 square feet).
The evacuation came several hours after 13 global cave diving experts and five Thai Navy SEALs entered the cave in an attempt to get the boys out one by one as they navigate through flooded and narrow tunnels. He was removed from the cave first because he was unwell as he gave all the food to boys.
In one, Pheerapat, nicknamed "Night", whose 16th birthday the group were celebrating in the cave when they became stuck on June 23, said: "I love you, Dad, Mum and my sister".
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