Four boys first to be rescued from cave after 15-day ordeal

Pauline Gross
July 11, 2018

Four of 12 schoolboys have been rescued so far from a flooded Thai cave after divers launched a daring and unsafe mission to free the children and their soccer coach, who were trapped underground for more than two weeks, Thai officials said.

Authorities have said extracting the entire team from the cave could take up to four days, but Sunday's success raised hopes that it could be done faster. He said officials were meeting Monday morning about conducting the next stage of the operation.

The boys and their coach hiked more than two miles into the cave after soccer practice on June 23. Gen. Anupong said that process could take several hours.

Authorities in northern Chiang Rai province began the unsafe mission to bring out the 12 boys and their football coach earlier on Sunday. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days.

His news of creating an escape pod came after USA and Thai officials got four boys out of the flooded cave network after spending 15 days trapped along with their soccer coach.

It was unclear who was inside the ambulances or the helicopter.

"It is important to appreciate that the United Kingdom cave divers continue to work alongside the Thai Navy SEAL divers and a combination of cave divers and open water divers from many other nations", the statement said.

A Thai army commander says the ongoing rescue of 12 boys and their coach could take 2-4 days depending on conditions inside the partially flooded cave. General Kongcheep Tantrawanit said, referring to the area where rescue workers had set up a base.

The dozen boys between the ages of 11 and 16 are accompanied by their 25-year-old coach.

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Celebrations were tinged with sadness over the loss of a former Thai navy diver who died on Friday while on a re-supply mission inside the cave.

The rescuers needed at least 10 hours to prepare for their next operation, involving about 90 divers in total, 50 of them from foreign countries, he said.

Experts say a rescue mission through a flooded cave is unsafe enough for professionals, let alone young boys who have never dived before.

Making the announcement over a loudspeaker, a police spokesman said: "Everyone who is not involved with the operations has to get out of the area immediately".

Chief of the rescue mission Narongsak Osottanakorn addressed reporters at the end of the 17-day mission, arriving at a media centre to a round of applause. But initial euphoria over finding the boys alive quickly turned into deep anxiety as rescuers raced to find a way to get them out, with Narongsak at one point dubbing the effort "Mission Impossible".

But Narongsak said earlier that mild weather and falling water levels in recent days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation.

The daring and unsafe bid to rescue the boys - aged between 11 and 16 - was suspended by the mission chief late on Sunday to replenish oxygen supplies and make new preparations, which he said would take at least 10 hours.

Rescue teams had installed a static rope along the dive path, giving the boys a guide, and experienced divers were reportedly positioned at various points along the way for assistance.

Other reports by GizPress

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