Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Rescuers begin operation to extract Thai boys trapped in cave

Rescuers begin operation to extract Thai boys trapped in cave

He said 13 foreign divers and five Thai navy SEALs were taking part in the key leg of the rescue: taking the boys from where they have been sheltering and through dark, tight and twisting passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.

The local governor supervising the rescue mission said Saturday that mild weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created appropriate conditions for an underwater evacuation, but that they won't last if it rains again.

"Dear all kids' parents, now all of them are fine, the rescue team is treating us well".

It is likely to take up to 8 hours to get each boy the 1.7 kilometres, by swimming and diving, from deep inside the cave to the third chamber.

After that though, the tunnels widen, the waters subside, and walking is even possible, according to authorities, with the rest of the journey expected to be relatively safe as they will have reached a forward operating base inside the cave.

Payap Maiming, 40, who helped provide food and necessities to rescue workers and journalists, said a "miracle" had happened.

He said the first boys - who have spent 15 nights trapped some 4 km (2.5 miles) inside the flooded cave - could emerge around 9 p.m. local time (1400 GMT).

"The mental side of this has to be one of the top considerations", Andrew Watson, an experienced rescuer of mineworkers, previously told AFP.

But his comments 12 hours later suggest the thinking has changed, with water levels inside the cave now managed to their lowest point by constant drainage.

He said 13 worldwide cave diving experts and five elite rescuers from Thai Navy SEAL joined the operation, adding that the trapped boys will be dived out one by one and each boy will be escorted by two divers.

Authorities now say that nearly the entire first 1,500 metre stretch from the cave mouth to the third chamber - where the Thai navy SEALS have set up a command post - is now walkable and that they have the water levels under control.

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He says the divers went in at 10 a.m. and the boys will gradually come out accompanied by two divers each.

The operation could be halted at any time because of weather and other factors and it could take a couple of days to complete. Video by Kate Geraghty.

He added: "They can not decide how many of them will be able to come out for the first operation".

"The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems", Mr Jedsada said. The families have been informed about the plan and have also agreed. He's an anaesthetist from Adelaide.

The British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC) confirmed that seven divers from the United Kingdom with "expertise in cave diving" are assisting.

Dozens of divers arrived at the Tham Luang cave Sunday morning, and officials set up more tarpaulin sheets blocking off the divers' operating area.

Earlier on Sunday all media and non-rescue personnel were cleared from the cave site area to facilitate space for rescue personnel and medical team.

"We're still at war with water and time", he said.

The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing in the cave in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai Province since June 23.

They were discovered by British divers on Monday night after a nine-day round-the-clock search involving teams from all over the world.

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