Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

‘Wild Boars’ rescued from Thai cave give a wave to the world in first video released since their rescue

July 11, 2018

The first video of the Thai boys rescued from a flooded cave after 17 days was released on Wednesday, showing them smiling and waving from their hospital beds, looking thin but fine after an ordeal that has gripped the world.

The last group of the 12-member “Wild Boars” soccer team and their coach was brought out of the Tham Luang cave, near the border with Myanmar, on Tuesday night, safely ending a dangerous rescue and evoking international relief and joy.

Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told a news conference the boys were just being children when they got lost and no one was to blame.

“We don’t see the children as at fault or as heroes. They are children being children, it was an accident,” Narongsak said.

Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting

This handout video grab taken from footage released on Wednesday shows members of the Wild Boars football team being treated at a hospital in Chiang Rai. | AFP-JIJI

A video of the boys in hospital was shown at the news conference. Some of them, wearing surgical masks, lay on their beds. Some sat and made the “peace sign” gesture for the camera.

None of the boys was heard speaking in the clips shown at the news conference.

The 12 boys and their soccer coach lost an average of 2 kg (4.4 lb) during their ordeal but were generally in good condition and showed no signs of stress, a senior health official said earlier.

After being brought out of the cave, one by one beginning on Sunday, they were taken by helicopter to hospital in the town of Chiang Rai, about 70 km (45 miles) away, to stay in quarantine.

The boys would have to stay in hospital for up to 10 days, hospital director Chaiwetch Thanapaisal told the news conference. They would then need to recuperate at home for 30 days, he said.

Parents of the first eight boys freed have been able to visit them but had to wear protective suits and stand 2 meters (7 feet) away as a precaution. Authorities are worried about the possibility of infections picked up in the cave.

Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, a health department inspector, earlier told reporters one from the last group rescued on Tuesday had a lung infection and they were all given vaccinations for rabies and tetanus.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha asked that the boys be given time to recover.

“The important thing is … personal space,” Prayuth told reporters. “The best way is not to bother them and let them study.”

The group ventured into the vast cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai after soccer practice on June 23 and were trapped when a rainy season downpour flooded tunnels.

They were lost for nine days before British rescue divers discovered them on July 2, sitting on a ledge in a half-flooded chamber.

Getting them out — which involved teaching boys as young as 11 who were not strong swimmers to dive through narrow, submerged passages — proved a monumental challenge.

A former member of Thailand’s navy SEAL unit died during a mission in the cave on Friday.

Narongsak, giving details of the rescue, said falling oxygen levels inside the cave complex had added a sense of urgency.

The commander of the navy SEAL unit that oversaw the rescue, Rear Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, hailed the international effort.

“We are not heroes. This mission was successful because of cooperation from everyone,” he said. “For SEALs, this is what we were trained for. The navy has a motto: ‘We don’t abandon the people.’ “

Official help came from Britain, the United States, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, China and Australia, a government document showed. There were volunteers from Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Ukraine and Finland.

The rescue has dominated front-page headlines in Thailand and beyond for days.

“Hooyah! Mission accomplished,” read one headline, echoing the rallying cry of the SEAL unit.

The hashtag #Hooyah was hugely popular on social media with people showing their support for the hundreds of rescuers, including divers from around the world, who helped to get the boys out.

The fate of the boys has even resonated as far as Russia, where soccer’s World Cup is reaching its final stages. Players from France and England welcomed news of the rescue and sent their best wishes to the “Wild Boars” on Twitter.

“This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so strong,” French midfielder Paul Pogba tweeted after his team beat Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday to reach the final.

Manchester City and England defender Kyle Walker, whose team faces Croatia in the second semi-final later on Wednesday, said he wanted to send shirts to the boys.

“Amazing news that all of the Thai kids are out of the cave safely!” Walker tweeted.

A Google search on Tuesday for the words “Thai cave rescue” revealed 359 million results.



All 12 Boys, Coach Rescued From Flooded Thai Cave

July 10, 2018

Mae Sai, Thailand (AP) — All 12 boys and their soccer coach have been rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, the Thai navy SEALs said Tuesday, ending an 18-day ordeal that riveted people around the world.

This photo, tweeted by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, shows efforts to rescue trapped members of the soccer team inside the cave.
This photo, tweeted by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, shows efforts to rescue trapped members of the soccer team inside the cave. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ELON MUSK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The SEALs, who were central to the rescue effort, said on their Facebook page that the remaining four boys and their 25 -year-old coach were all brought out safely Tuesday. Eight of the boys had been brought out of the cave by a team of Thai and international divers on Sunday and Monday.

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the SEALs said, referring to the name of the boys’ soccer team.

Rescuers walked toward the entrance to the Thai cave complex where four members of a youth soccer team and their coach remained trapped. A mission to rescue those remaining began Tuesday.
Rescuers walked toward the entrance to the Thai cave complex where four members of a youth soccer team and their coach remained trapped. A mission to rescue those remaining began Tuesday. PHOTO: SAKCHAI LALIT/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Everyone is safe,” they said.

They said they were waiting for a medic and three SEALs who had stayed with the boys in their dark refuge deep inside the cave complex to come out.

Cheers erupted at a local government office where dozens of volunteers and journalists were awaiting news of whether the intricate and high-risk rescue mission had succeeded. Helicopters taking the boys to a hospital roared overhead.

Highlighting the dangers, a former Thai navy SEAL died Friday while replenishing oxygen canisters laid at regular intervals along the route out of the sprawling Tham Luang cave.

The plight of the boys and their coach has riveted Thailand and much of the world — from the heart-sinking news that they were missing to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found 10 days later by a pair of British divers. They were trapped in the cave that became flooded by monsoon rains while they were exploring it after a soccer practice on June 23.

The eight boys brought out by divers on Sunday and Monday were doing well and were in good spirits, a senior health official said Tuesday.

Divers go in to save all remaining Thai boys trapped in cave

July 10, 2018

The cave evacuation effort in Thailand has entered its final stage, with rescue teams working to evacuate all of the boys and their coach at once. The risky operation involves 19 rescue workers.

Thailand divers preparing for a dive in Tham Luang Nang Non cave (picture-alliance/dpa/Royal Thai Navy)

Authorities sent in the rescue teams for the third and final stage of retrieving the children trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non on Tuesday morning.

Four boys and their football coach are waiting to make hours-long journey out of the cave complex.

“All five will be brought out at the same time today,” said head of the rescue mission Narongsak Osottanakornon Tuesday.

Karte Infografik Tham Luang Höhle Thailand *Bildergalerie* EN

The final stage of the operation involves 19 rescue workers, and it would also retrieve a doctor and three Thai Navy SEALs who have stayed with the group since they were found over a week ago. The extraction started on Sunday and eight of the children have been successfully brought out.

As of Tuesday morning, the last of the group have spend nearly 16 days underground after being trapped by floodwaters in the cave in northern Thailand. Their disappearance triggered a frantic search as rescuers raced rising water levels at the start of the monsoon season. A British diving team reached the 12 boys and their coach after nine days.

Last Friday, an ex-Navy SEAL died while placing oxygen tanks along 4.7-kilometer (2.9-mile) evacuation route.

‘Happy to get out’

The authorites are still keeping the eight rescued boys away from their parents for fear of infection. However, senior health official Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk said all of them are “healthy and smiling.”

“The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems,” he added. “Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them.”

Read morePsychological impacts of being trapped in a cave

The four of the boys who were recovered on Sunday are now eating normal food, Jedsada said. Still, health officials were wary of possible infections “because we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave.” The children, aged between 11 and 16, would likely spend another week in the hospital, according to the official.

dj/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Rain adds urgency to rescue of last five trapped in Thai cave

July 10, 2018

Rescuers raced to save four young footballers and their coach who remain trapped in a flooded Thai cave Tuesday, as heavy rains threatened an already perilous escape mission that has seen eight of the boys extracted in “good health”.

The members of the “Wild Boars” team, aged between 12 and 16, were guided to safety through the twisting, submerged passages of the Tham Luang cave by a team of international expert divers flanked by Thai Navy SEALs over two days in a meticulously planned operation.

The emergence of the second batch of four on Monday evening was greeted with a simple “Hooyah” by the Thai SEAL team on their Facebook page, an exclamation that lit up Thai social media.

© AFP | Eight of the trapped boys have been guided to safety from the twisting, submerged passages of the Tham Luang cave

“All eight are in good health, no fever… everyone is in a good mental state,” Jesada Chokedamrongsuk, permanent secretary of the public health ministry, told reporters Tuesday at Chiang Rai hospital in the clearest update on their condition so far.

The boys underwent x-rays and blood tests and two who had signs of pneumonia were given antibiotics and are in a “normal state”, he said, adding they will all remain under observation in hospital for a week.

The ups and downs of the rescue bid has entranced Thailand and also fixated a global audience, drawing comments of support from celebrities as varied as US President Donald Trump, football star Lionel Messi and tech guru Elon Musk.

Thailand’s junta leader welcomed Musk into the cave complex late Monday, with the American later tweeting a standing offer of a mini-submarine escape pod to help the remaining five leave the tunnels.

Fresh rains on Tuesday added urgency to the final stages of the treacherous rescue bid, several kilometres inside a mountain and through flooded, tight corridors.

– Infection risk –

It was unclear what time the rescue effort would resume on Tuesday, with operations chief Narongsak Osottanakorn telling reporters divers had crafted plans to extract four people at a time.

“If we bring five we have to change the plan,” he told reporters late Monday.

A rescue official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the timings of Tuesday’s dives were not yet set.

“But I guarantee they will all be safe,” he added, reflecting an increasingly bullish attitude after two successful operations so far.

Thai authorities said the first four rescued Sunday have been kept in quarantine until the risk of infection subsides.

Information on the rescue operation, the health of those rescued — and their identities — has been tightly guarded by Thai authorities.

But the progress of a rescue, which early on had looked like it could be stalled until after the monsoon season, has brought joy to the friends and family of the stricken group.

“I want him to be healthy and come back to study quickly,” Phansa Namyee, classmate of 16-year-old footballer Night said.

“I want to go play with them… take him to some restaurants and spend time together.”


Fifth boy removed from Thailand cave as rescue mission continues

July 9, 2018

A fifth boy was removed Monday from the flooded cave system in northern Thailand, joining four other soccer team members who were rescued Sunday — leaving seven more youngsters and their coach inside, according to reports.

The boy was seen on a stretcher just before 4.30 p.m. local time (5.30 a.m. ET) after the dramatic rescue from Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex, according to CNN.

He was expected to be flown to a hospital by helicopter.

Former Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osotthanakorn said the boy’s rescue involved many of the same divers who brought the four boys out Sunday.

Five ambulances were seen heading earlier toward the cave complex Monday, and at least one chopper also was seen heading toward the entrance.

Thai cave rescue enters second phase

July 9, 2018

Authorities in Thailand have resumed a rescue mission to extract nine members of a boys’ football team trapped inside a flooded cave. The mission commander said he expects “good news in a few hours.”

Rescue workers walk through tarpaulin

The second phase of a delicate operation to rescue a Thai youth soccer team from a flooded cave began on Monday, officials said.

“The water level is low. The weather is good. The equipment is ready. So we decided to begin earlier than expected today,” Narongsak Osatanakorn, the governor of Thailand’s northern Chiang Rai province and chief of the rescue mission, told a press briefing.

“In the next few hours we will have good news,” he said.

Read moreThe Thai cave rescue and our longing for clarity

The announcement came a day after a group of rescuers brought four boys out of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex in a dangerous operation that involved them diving through narrow, winding passages filled with muddy water and strong currents.

Authorities are racing to rescue the remaining eight boys and their 25-year-old coach before monsoon rains cause the floodwater to rise.

What happened in phase one:

  • Four of the 12 boys were rescued in the first phase of the operation.
  • The head of the rescue mission said the healthiest boys were the first to be taken out.
  • The boys wore full diving face masks as a team of diving experts guided them along a 4.7-kilometer (2.9-mile) route out of the cave complex.
  • The rescued boys were immediately taken to hospital to undergo medical tests.
  • Officials say they are in good health but will not be allowed close contact with their relatives because of the risk of infection.
    A map showing the cave complex

Complicated rescue: Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand’s navy SEAL unit are taking part in the operation to free the young soccer players and their coach. Each round trip from the rescue camp to the rocky shelf where the group is trapped takes about 11 hours. As well as navigating tight submerged passageways, the rescuers and boys also have to contend with oxygen-depleted air. A former Thai navy SEAL died making the dive on Friday.

Two weeks underground: A massive rescue operation was launched after the boys, aged 11-16, and their coach went missing on June 23. The team and coach were exploring the cave after a practice game when heavy rainfall and flooding cut off their escape route out of the cave and prevented rescuers from finding them for nine days.

nm/ng (AFP, AP)

Musk proposes mini-submarine to save Thai cave boys

July 9, 2018

 American tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has proposed a mini-submarine to save the boys trapped inside a flooded Thai cave, floating the idea on social media while linking it to his space exploration business.

After garnering headlines with initial ideas of installing a giant air tube inside the cave complex and using his firm’s penetrating radar to dig holes to reach the boys, Musk’s latest concept is the pod.

“Primary path is basically a tiny, kid-size submarine using the liquid oxygen transfer tube of Falcon rocket as hull,” Musk said in a tweet to his 22 million followers.

“Light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps. Extremely robust.”

© AFP/File | After garnering headlines with initial ideas of installing a giant air tube inside the cave complex and using his firm’s penetrating radar to dig holes to reach the boys, Elon Musk’s latest concept is a mini-

An accompanying video of people testing the submarine in a swimming pool in Los Angeles that was posted overnight Sunday attracted more than 3.1 million views in 10 hours.

Many people offered positive comments, with fans hailing Musk and his engineers for their creativity.

Other people, however, questioned whether Musk’s plan was credible.

“Seriously? No kid or adult will want to be in there for any amount of time. Re think this. CAT or open MRI machines create unsurmountable anxiety. Go back to drawing board,” one person wrote to Musk on Twitter.

The mini-submarine is due to arrive in Thailand on Monday, Musk wrote.

Last week Musk said he was sending teams to Thailand from his private space exploration firm, SpaceX, and engineering firm, Boring Co. which is developing tunneling systems for transport projects.

While offering the mini-submarine as a potential saviour, Musk again used the opportunity to promote space exploration.

“With some mods, this could also work as an escape pod in space,” Musk said on Twitter.

Thai authorities have said they are welcoming all offers of help in the rescue effort for the boys, who became trapped in a complex cave system in mountainous northern Thailand on June 23 when rising waters hemmed them in.

Twelve boys aged from 11 to 16, plus their 25-year-old coach, were caught inside the cave.

Elite divers began a rescue mission Sunday, successfully escorting four of them out, and were aiming to extract the others swiftly before fresh monsoon rains made escape impossible.

T-Junction ‘crisis’ point looms near end of Thai cave rescue

July 8, 2018

Twelve boys and their football coach trapped in a flooded Thai cave will have to squeeze through an extremely narrow tunnel in pitch blackness — the main “crisis” point that looms near the end of their treacherous escape bid.

Authorities have highlighted the tiny passageway near T-Junction, or Sam Yak in Thai, as the most dangerous element of the journey for the “Wild Boars” team that began Sunday morning, but there are many other potential pitfalls.

The rescue effort is likely to take two to three days to complete, Major General Chalongchai Chaiyakorn, an army commander, told reporters, adding it “depends on other factors like the weather”.

© ROYAL THAI NAVY/AFP | Authorities have highlighted the tiny passageway near T-Junction, or Sam Yak in Thai, as the most dangerous element of the journey for the “Wild Boars” team that began Sunday morning, but there are many other potential pitfalls

Here are some of the challenges that the boys and their coach will face leaving the cave they ventured into on June 23, becoming trapped more than four kilometres (2.4 miles) from the entrance because of monsoon rains.

— Diving ability —

The boys, aged from 11 and 16, have no diving experience and some can not even swim. They have received training in recent days in preparation for the extraction effort, but they will have to swim using scuba gear through fast-flowing water in darkness, a challenge for even elite divers.

The difficulty of the journey was underscored when a former Thai Navy Seal diver died on Friday after running out of oxygen in the cave.

Thirteen “world class” foreign divers and Thai Navy Seals are involved in the rescue effort. Two divers will escort each of the boys and the coach, aged 25.

— T-Junction —

The sliver of space is 1.9 kilometres (1.2 miles) from the shelf where the boys have been sheltering above the waters. After energy-sapping efforts navigating jagged tunnels and clambering up or down rock walls for this distance, they will confront Sam Yak.

“The biggest crisis spot for diving is on the left from the T-Junction,” said Narongsak Osottanakorn, the rescue mission chief, in a briefing on July 2.

“There is a tunnel that has a passageway going up and coming down narrowly and you have to turn a bit and it’s very small.”

After that though, the tunnels widen, the waters subside, and walking is even possible, according to authorities, with the rest of the journey expected to be relatively safe as they will have reached a forward operating base inside the cave.

— Duration, strength —

The journey will be a long one. The rescue mission chief, Narongsak Osottanakorn, told reporters on Sunday that the first boy was not expected to emerge until 9pm (1400 GMT) on Sunday. This tallies with previous estimates from officials that it would take the divers five hours to reach the ledge where the team is trapped, and six hours for the journey out.

The boys were found dishevelled and weak nine days after they ventured in. Although they have been receiving food and medicine since then, their lack of strength could be a crucial factor in determining their fate.

— Visibility, panic–

The water in the cave is muddy and unclear, with one diver comparing it to a cafe latte. The labyrinth has no outside light. The boys will be helped through the darkness by guiding rope, torches and the escorts.

Nevertheless, the poor visibility is one of the factors raising concerns about the boys — already traumatised after spending so long in the cave and having to swim underwater — potentially panicking.

“The mental side of this has to be one of the top considerations,” Andrew Watson, an experienced rescuer of mineworkers, previously told AFP.

“Just one individual panicking can cause a problem,” he said.

— Bad weather —

The operation was launched after several days of relatively mild weather, as more than 100 million of litres of water were pumped out of the cave.

Kobchai Boonyaorana, deputy director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department of the Interior Ministry, told reporters Sunday that the water level in the cave had continued to recede, and that rainfall was less than expected.

But weather forecasters warned heavy rain was on its way, which could flood the area completely. They said there was a 60-percent chance of moderate to heavy rain on Sunday afternoon, and that heavier rain would continue from Monday to Thursday.


Thai Rescuers Begin Perilous Operation to Free Trapped Soccer Team

July 8, 2018

Authorities say now is the optimal time to begin the rescue, before monsoon rains intensify

Divers arrive at the Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand, July 8.
Divers arrive at the Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand, July 8. PHOTO: TYRONE SIU/REUTERS


MAE SAI, Thailand—Rescue divers began a dangerous mission to bring out 12 members of a youth soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand where they have been trapped for more than two weeks, the official in charge of the operation said.

On Sunday, Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said two divers would accompany each of the boys as they make the precarious journey from the rear of the six-mile-long cave complex. Each journey will likely take several hours and involve the use of scuba-diving equipment to navigate long passages, which are still submerged after monsoon flooding cut off the team on June 23.

“D-Day was at 10 a.m.,” Gov. Narongsak said. “We don’t expect the first exit until 9 p.m. at the earliest. It will take two or three days to bring them all out.”

Sources: French Federation of Speleology, surveys taken in 1986 and 1987 (cave path and cross sections); Thai government and staff reports (location details)

For days rescue coordinators have delayed a decision to bring the boys out through the cave, preferring instead to exhaust other options such as drilling a hole through the mountain above or draining more flood water from the Tham Luang cave, which is among Thailand’s longest cave systems. Extracting them through the winding, partially submerged passages is considered highly dangerous even for the fittest and most experienced of cave divers. One former Thai Navy SEAL died after running out of air late Thursday.

Efforts to drill down from the top of the mountain to where the cave is located have been unsuccessful so far. Gov. Narongsak said drilling teams made more than 100 holes, previously adding that some are as deep as 400 meters (1300 feet), in a bid to locate the boys.

He said authorities concluded now is the optimal time to begin the rescue, before monsoon rains intensify and worsen the flooding inside the cave.

Gov. Narongsak said 18 divers were deployed at first, comprising 13 foreign divers and five Thai Navy SEALs. The plan is to bring out the boys one by one, and they and their families have been informed of the extraction plan, he said.

Strong currents and low visibility are significant challenges. But divers regarded the most dangerous part of the extraction to be a portion they called the siphon: a passage too small to dive through while wearing an air tank. Navigating the siphon required the boys to travel partially under their own power and relying on divers to carry their breathing apparatus.


A Thai student shows an image of her classmate Panumas Saengdee, 13 and known as “Mick.” PHOTO:RUNGROJ YONGRIT/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

A Thai student shows an image of her classmate Duangpetch Promthep, 13 and called “Dom” PHOTO:RUNGROJ YONGRIT/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

The onset of heavy rains forced the rescuers’ hand, however, raising the possibility that it could once more cut off the boys from the outside world. “We see that a new storm is coming and we cannot wait,” Gov. Narongsak said.

Worsening air quality inside the cave added to the growing pressure to bring them out.

The 12 players on the local Wild Boars soccer team entered the cave June 23 with their coach, 25-year-old Ekkapol Chantawong. Several had been there before, but heavy rains and flooding soon forced them to seek higher ground in a harder-to-reach area of the cave a few miles from the entrance.

The team was located by a British diving team late Monday, after they spent nearly 10 days underground, sparking a desperate effort to bring them out safely.

Divers from several countries are part of the rescue effort, helping to lay cables, guide ropes, and placing air tanks along the route the boys need to traverse.

Divers said even the most experienced among them faced challenges. “There are some restrictions, some places where it gets very narrow and that’s difficult to get through,” Danish volunteer Ivan Karadzic said earlier Friday. “Depending on what equipment you use, you either have to push your tank in first or you use specialized equipment, so you can get through.”

Deadly Operation to Save Boys in Cave Grinds On

Rescuers are still desperately drawing up ways to free 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave complex in Thailand. The dangerous work to keep them alive while plans advance on how best to extract them has claimed the life of one rescuer. First published Friday.

Many of the teenagers, none of whom have dived before, are weak from their ordeal. Authorities said some were showing signs of malnutrition. Rescuers have been ferrying supplies into the cave to build the boys’ strength, while specialist divers trained them in the basics of scuba diving to prepare them for the trip out.

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at


Thailand cave rescue: ‘Today is D-Day’: Rescuers begin mission to extract Thai cave boys

July 8, 2018

A dangerous rescue mission to free 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach trapped inside a Thai cave for two weeks began on Sunday, authorities said, with the first survivor to possibly emerge 11 hours later.

Thai military personnel inside a cave during the ongoing rescue operations for the youth soccer team and their assistant coach, at Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, on Saturday.

Photos: Thai soccer team trapped in cave

Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand’s elite navy SEAL unit would attempt to bring the boys – some of whom are as young as 11 and not strong swimmers – through narrow, submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver earlier this week.

“Today is D-Day,” Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue mission, told reporters. “At 10 am today (0300 GMT) 13 foreign divers went in to extract the children along with 5 Thai navy SEALs”.

He said the first boys could emerge from the cave at around 9 pm local time (1400 GMT)

The rescue mission began after rainshowers soaked the Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province for the past 24 hours, heightening the risks in what the governor has called a “war with water and time” to save the team.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after soccer practice on June 23, setting out to explore the cave complex near the border with Myanmar.

A mammoth response operation – including a medical unit, ambulance and helicopter for every boy – is waiting outside the cave for the team to emerge.

Narongsak said the boys could start to emerge as early as 9 pm on Sunday, but that there was “no time limit” and the rescue operation could take a number of days or be halted at any time.

An Australian doctor, who is part of Sunday’s rescue mission, checked the health of the boys last night and gave the all clear for the rescue to proceed, Narongsak said.

At the entrance to the site, a newly placed, thin white decorative flag fluttered in the wind, a Buddhist sign to indicate positive energy.

Gong Hui, a Chinese diver involved in the operation that has drawn some 130 Thai and international divers, told Reuters on Saturday before the fresh rains that water levels in the cave had “receded a lot” after sustained pumping had removed millions of liters of water.

To escape, the children must dive through dark, narrow passageways sometimes no more than two-feet (0.6- meter) wide, that have challenged some of the world’s leading cave divers.

A former member of Thailand’s SEAL unit died during a dive on Thursday night, a grim turn in what began two weeks ago as an outing to celebrate the birthday of one of the boys.GRAPHIC-Thailand (For a graphic on cave rescue: Hope for the 13, click

Additional reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and James Pomfret; writing by James Pomfret and John Geddie; editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Darren Schuettler


See also:

Thai rescue: Divers start mission to free boys trapped in cave