Four Boys Brought Out From Thai Cave as Rescue Efforts Continue

Credit PA

Elite divers have rescued the first six of 12 young soccer players and their coach who have been trapped in a flooded cave complex for more than two weeks.

In a statement released late Sunday afternoon, Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn says "divers will work with medics in the cave to assess the boys' health before determining who will come out first". Namhom Boonpiam, the mother of Mongkhol, said she had not been told whether her son had been rescued and taken to hospital and only learned he may have been freed from reports on social media.

Complicated rescue: Local government officials said 13 foreign and five Thai divers are taking part in the long and unsafe operation to free the 12 young soccer players and their 25-year-old coach.

Their disappearance triggered a massive worldwide search and rescue operation involving officials, soldiers and volunteers from the United States, Britain, Australia, Germany, Japan and China, among others.

In addition to having no experience diving, the boys have mostly been without food and medicine for two weeks in tight quarters where oxygen is limited. It takes several hours.

Authorities in northern Chiang Rai province began the risky mission to bring out the 12 boys and their football coach earlier on Sunday.

The group was found dishevelled and hungry by British cave diving specialists nine days after they ventured in.

"Today we managed to rescue and send back four children to Chiang Rai Prachanukrua Hospital safely", the head of the rescue operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said at a news conference. Two more guys put in the ambulance, they, too, are delivered to the hospital.

It usually takes divers about five hours from where the boys were to reach chamber three, a dry point where the SEALs have set up a command post, and from which rescue officials said the boys could likely walk the rest of the way.

Speaking a day after four boys were brought out from Luang cave, Prayuth said the operation's time frame is up to the provincial rescue command and he does not have the authority to interfere. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakam said.

Authorities have been rushing to extract the boys, ages 11-16, and their coach from the cave as the annual monsoon bears down on the mountainous region in far northern Chiang Rai province.

"The hole is really small, I have to take off my air tank to crawl through it", a 25-year-old Thai Navy Seal told Reuters before the rescue attempt.

Efforts are expected to restart on Monday as low water levels in the cave have provided a brief window for a safer rescue.

"This mission was successful because we had power".

"We've used all the oxygen", Narongsak said, adding that the clock is continuing to tick for the remaining boys who are still waiting in the cave along with their coach, and rescuers are going to focus on refilling the oxygen tanks so they can continue the operation. But Narongsak 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.

The first two boys emerged from the cave at 5.40pm local time, followed by the other two at 7.40pm and 7.50pm.

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