Four boys rescued from Thailand cave; eight delayed 10-20 hours

The first members of a youth soccer team trapped with their coach in a flooded cave in northern Thailand have been rescued and are on their way to the hospital, local officials said on Sunday.

The first two schoolboys have emerged from a flooded Thai cave after divers launched a daring and unsafe mission to rescue the children and their soccer coach, who have been trapped underground for more than two weeks, a Thai official said. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days, CBS News reported. "The boys are ready to face any challenges", rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters near the cave site as the threat loomed of monsoon rains causing more flooding in the cave and blocking off a rescue bid.

The rescue will resume after authorities assess conditions in the cave, get a briefing on the initial rescues and replenish the oxygen tanks, Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said at a press conference.

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

The boys were discovered by British divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen on Monday. He said his native province Chiang Rai has hills and caves.

The Thai Navy Seals posted on their Facebook page that four of the boys had been rescued. He says the divers went in at 10 a.m. local time on Sunday and the boys will gradually come out accompanied by two divers each.

Officials did not clarify this morning whether the complex effort to dive the team out of the kilometres-long Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand had started.

Crews launched an operation to rescue the boys and their coach Sunday morning. "We have tried all possible ways to get the boys out, but sometimes we can't win over nature". Each of the rescued boys had two divers with them at all times during the operation.

"Our operation today is more successful than what we've hoped for", he added.

The boys - cold, malnourished and exhausted - will have to swim large sections of the underground maze and squeeze through tiny gaps, some no bigger than 30cm.

"Night loves Dad and Mom and brother, don't worry about me", wrote another boy in the Thai manner of referring to one's self in the third person.

  • Steve Townsend