Teams prepare 'rescue operation' to save boys trapped in Thailand cave

Royal Thai Navy via AP

An Australian doctor with cave diving experience examined the boys on Sunday and declared them fit for the operation, authorities said.

Those rescued Sunday traveled more than half a mile underwater with the first one coming out of the cave at 5:40 p.m., Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osottanakorn, the head of the rescue mission, said Sunday. The boys were transferred by helicopter and ambulance to a hospital where they are being treated, but officials did not disclose details of their condition.

The rescue started at 10 am Thai time and involved 13 worldwide divers and five Thai navy seals, who were described by Governor Narongsak as "an all-star team", reports the Daily Mail.

Journalists & non-essential personnel are ordered to leave the cave site and surrounding roads as the rescue operation begins to evacuate the trapped soccer team.

Eight boys and the coach remained inside the cave as authorities paused the worldwide effort to replenish air tanks along the treacherous exit route.

But in an upbeat assessment, he said "it's ideal conditions like yesterday" and that "I expect in the next four to five hour we will have good news".

Thai soldiers try to connect water pipes that will help bypass water from entering a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, July 7, 2018.

A short time later, the Thai Navy SEAL official Facebook page announced four people were out of the cave.

Narongsak told reporters earlier Sunday that the boys would be brought out one by one and that it could take at least 11 hours for the first person to be rescued.

Some officials initially said that the boys could remain where they were - on a dry rock ledge near a point inside the cave known as Pattaya Beach - for up to several months as long as they were supplied with food and medicines.

"Now the 13 (boys and coach) of them - their health and their minds are ready and they are ready to go out", he said.

More news: Thai cave rescue mission: What you need to know

Some took time on Sunday to pay tribute to Saman Gunan, a Thai Navy SEAL who died while trying to ensure the boys had enough oxygen.

Who are the boys and their coach?

Narongsak said that there was no time limit on the rescue and that its progress would depend on weather and conditions inside the cave, but expected it to last through Monday.

The story of the "Wild Boars" soccer team, who first ventured into the caves more than two weeks ago before flood waters trapped them inside, has gripped Thai and worldwide media. Thai authorities have repeatedly warned that monsoon rains could rapidly reverse the huge effort that has seen more than 100 million litres of water pumped out of the cave to clear the way for rescuers and smooth the path for the boys.

The boys, who are aged between 11 and 16 years old, along with their 25-year-old coach Ekkapol Chantawong, went to explore the Tham Luang Nang Non cave after football practice, but did not return home that night.

The potential for rising water and the dwindling oxygen levels added to the urgency of getting the team out.

This is a hugely high-profile rescue attempt and Thailand knows the world is watching.

The search and rescue operation has involved dozens of worldwide experts and rescuers, including a United States military team.

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.

The boys sounded calm and reassuring in handwritten notes to their families that were made public Saturday.

"Don't be anxious, I miss everyone". I'm happy being here inside, the navy SEALS have taken good care. "I want to say thanks for all the support, and I want to apologize".

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