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.
At least four members of a youth soccer team trapped in a cave for more than two weeks have emerged, but the next phase of the rescue operation won't begin for another 10-20 hours. The boys' ordeal of the has drawn huge media attention in Thailand and overseas, and getting the boys out safely could be a boost for Thailand's junta ahead of a general election next year.
The first two members of a Thai schoolboy football team have been rescued from the flooded cave where they had been trapped for more than two weeks, a local rescue official said on Sunday.
"Now and in the next three or four days, the conditions are flawless (for evacuation) in terms of the water, the weather and the boys' health", Narongsak told reporters.
Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osotthanakorn said at a press conference four boys are safely in the hands of doctors.
The first two boys have been rescued from the flooded cave and are now in a hospital near the cave.
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A helicopter flew the four boys to the nearby city of Chiang Rai, where they were taken by ambulance to the hospital. Two more to follow close behind.
Mild weather and falling water levels over the past few days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation that won't last if it rains again, Narongsak had said.
The "Wild Boars" team has been confined to the Tham Luang cave since June 23, when they went in after practice and were hemmed in by monsoon floods.
"I think Narongsak and the commanders changed their minds after the Australian doctor inspected the boys' health and mental state", one senior Thai journalist said.
"In this situation, if you get in trouble under the water, you can't come up to the surface", he said.
Each boy had to wear a full scuba mask, wetsuit, boots and a helmet as they made their way through the dark and perilous passageways. He said the operation started at 10 a.m. local time, that it would take about 11 hours to remove the first boy from the cave and that two divers would accompany each boy.
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A spokesperson for the rescue operation told CNN that it would take multiple attempts to rescue all those trapped in the cave.
Rescuers have drilled multiple holes in the hills above the cave complex, but have so far not been able to find a safe way through the fragile limestone rock to the boys some 600 meters below.
"Tthe trust factor between the children and diver makes it - it's probably 90 percent of what gets them out of the cave", Mirza said.
Divers have brought the boys "food, electrolyte drinks, drinking water, medicine and oxygen canisters", the AP reports.
"We have a fraction of a second to help them come out", the governor said.
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