First Boys Begin To Emerge From Cave In Thailand

Ekapol Chanthawong on a trip with the Wild Boars to a meditation trip

A unsafe rescue mission to free 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach trapped inside a Thai cave for two weeks has begun, authorities said.

The governor said 13 foreign divers and five Thai navy SEALs would manage the extraction process.

Four boys among a group of 13 trapped in a flooded Thai cave for more than a fortnight were rescued on Sunday, authorities said, raising hopes elite divers would also quickly save the others.

The young soccer team and their coach have been trapped in the vast cave system since June 23, when monsoon rains flooded the cave while they were exploring inside.

Monsoon flooding had initially cut off their escape, and rescuers were unable to find them for more than a week.

A deafening applause broke among a troop of journalists on Sunday night (Jul 8) in Thailand's northernmost province of Chiang Rai when its former governor Narongsak Osottanakorn, the man leading one of the most watched rescue operations in the world, finished his first sentence at a press conference.

A source said the football team will be divided into four groups.

"Teacher, don't give us lots of homework!" read one.

Rescuers have suggested that it may take up to two days for the rescue to be completed, with each boy being brought out individually.

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"Today we are at peak readiness", the lead rescuer said as he announced the start of the operation.

Narongsak said the first boy was expected to be brought out of the cave by around 9:00 pm (1400 GMT), meaning the trip would take around 11 hours. They are being taken to the field hospital and will later be taken to the Chiang Rai hospital, as per a local official quoted by Reuters.

The rescue teams had rehearsed the plan for several days, Narongsak said, and had managed to drain the cave water level considerably, but needed to move fast.

Further rain would have heightened the risks in what has been called a "war with water and time" to save the team.

Four Thai soccer players are the first to be successfully rescued from a flooded cave hours after a complex and unsafe rescue mission commenced, according to Thai navy SEALS.

Media have been asked to leave the area by 9am local time (noon, AEST) Sunday, and the site was evacuated for a "rescue operation".

The letters were picked up by Thai navy SEALs who made an 11-hour journey back-and-forth to act as postal couriers.

In the days since they were found in the cave, the boys have written notes to their families expressing optimism and encouraging them not to worry.

On Friday, officials warned that oxygen levels in the cave dropped from 21% to 15%, complicating rescue efforts.

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