6 boys safely rescued from flooded Thai cave as operation underway

Marcus Newton
July 9, 2018

Rescue teams in Thailand began the first stage of an operation to save a youth soccer team from a flooded underground cave, with four of the twelve boys successfully rescued.

The rescued boys emerged as night fell from the Tham Luang cave complex after navigating a treacherous escape route of more than four kilometres (2.5 miles) through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways.

Photo taken on July 8, 2018 shows that the first two boys are transfered to the field hospital after being brought out near the cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Four children who were rescued have been safely delivered by helicopter to the hospital in Chiang Rai, head of the rescue operations said.

"I am still waiting here at the cave, keeping my fingers crossed to see whether my son will be one of those to come out today", Akkarat Wongsukjan, a mother of Pheerapat - known by his nickname "Night" - told AFP.

13 foreign divers and five Thai navy SEALs are working in pairs to guide the boys, aged 11-16, through the cave's winding chambers.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the military junta that seized power in 2014, planned to visit the cave site today, a government spokesman said.

Osotthanakorn told reporters there would be a meeting Sunday evening to plan next steps, and that authorities want to ensure conditions are stable before beginning the next phase of the rescue.

An additional eight boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach are still inside the Tham Luang cave, where they've been trapped by flood waters since June 23.

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It now takes rescuers, who are seasoned cave diving experts, about six hours to reach the ledge where the boys are holding out. They have enlisted the help of bird-watchers, who are specialists in finding hidden holes, the AFP news agency reports.

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Their ordeal 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. He found kindred spirits in the boys, many of whom had grown up poor or were stateless ethnic minorities, common in this border area between Myanmar and Thailand. "The operation went much better than expected, " said Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is overseeing the mission.

Earlier, a Thai Army official told ABC News the whole rescue operation could take three or four days.

But with the rainy season just beginning, it has become clear that the flooding which originally trapped the boys will only get worse in the coming days.

Initial euphoria over finding the boys alive quickly turned into deep anxiety as rescuers struggled to find a way to get them out.

Rescuers have conceded that evacuating the boys is a race against time with monsoon rains expected to undo days of around-the-clock drainage of the deluged cave.

"There is no other day that we are more ready than today", he said.

American technology entrepreneur Elon Musk even deployed engineers from his private space exploration firm SpaceX and Boring Co.to help. It was not immediately known if a US diver was among them.

Bodhi was not a member of the Wild Boars soccer club - rather he tagged along on the cave trek to be with a friend who is on the team. "I had been anxious about my son, that he would be exhausted, he would be tired", he said.

"Don't be anxious, I miss everyone".

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