4 boys rescued from Thai cave in risky operation; 9 remain inside

Glen Norman
July 9, 2018

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

Their ordeal has drawn huge media attention in Thailand and overseas, and getting the boys out safely could be a boost for Thailand's ruling junta ahead of a general election next year.

Foreign elite divers and Thai Navy SEALS began the complex operation to extract the 12 boys and their football coach on Sunday morning as they raced against time, with imminent monsoon rains threatening more flooding that would doom the mission.

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

Only six of the stranded school boys will be evacuated Sunday, the Thai Public Broadcast Service announced.

Thai Navy soldiers in the flooded Tham Luang cave during rescue operations for the 12 boys and their football team coach.

When the boys are freed, they will immediately be taken to Chiangrai Prachanukroh hospital, around 60 miles from the cave site.

The first two boys were extracted from the cave around 5:40 p.m. local time Sunday with the help of divers.

As morning breaks, the remaining eight boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach will be hoping they, too, are as successful as the first four.

Mr Ekapol Chanthawong, his assistant, was to take the younger boys to a soccer field nestled by the Doi Nang Non mountain range, a formation with numerous waterfalls and caves that straddles the Thai-Myanmar border. "We're still at war with water and time", he told reporters.

Meanwhile, the oxygen level in the cave has dropped, taxing the bodies of the captives who have had little to eat or drink while they were missing from June 23 to Monday, when they were located deep within the 10-kilometer cave system in northern Thailand. Officials went on to say the next cave rescue attempt will take place in 10-20 hours.

Onlookers watch and cheer as ambulances deliver boys rescued from a cave in northern Thailand to hospital in Chiang Rai after they were transported by helicopters on July 8, 2018 in Chiangrai, Thailand. "We have tried all possible ways to get the boys out, but sometimes we can't win over nature". Those conditions won't last if the rain resumes, he said. This is expected to further complicate the high-risk rescue operation.

US President Donald Trump said on Twitter Sunday that his government is working "very closely" with Thai officials.

The head of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osottanakorn, suggested earlier in the weekend that the boys were not ready to make the trip, but later on Saturday said there was a window of opportunity to try ahead of looming monsoon rains.

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