Rescuers in Thailand retrieved four of the 12 boys who have been trapped with their soccer coach in a cave for two weeks in the first phase of an operation that could take days.
Chiang Rai provincial acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said the four healthiest boys were taken from the cave first. The rescued children have been taken to the hospital, although their condition was not immediately clear.
Narongsak, who noted that the operation is going “better than expected,” added that the next phase of the operation would resume Monday as authorities replenish air tanks along the cave’s treacherous exit route.
Narongsak had dubbed Sunday to be “D-day” as the complicated effort was launched in the morning.
The boys and their coach had been stranded in Tham Luang Nang Non when they went exploring in the cave after a scrimmage June 23. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days.
Narongsak, who is heading the operation, said earlier Sunday that 13 foreign and five Thai divers were taking part in the rescue, and two divers were to accompany each of the boys, all of whom have been learning to dive only since Monday, when the first searchers found them.
An ambulance carries one of the boys rescued from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. Thai navy SEALs say four of the 12 soccer team members are out of the cave. Linh Pham/Getty ImagesThe entire operation to get all 13 out of the cave could last two to four days, depending on weather and water conditions, army Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakam said.
The only way to bring them out of the cave is by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygen-depleted air. A former Thai navy SEAL passed out making the dive Friday and died.
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 next phase of the operation would start Monday after rescue teams replenish the supply of oxygen tanks along the route to ensure the safety of the journey, which takes several hours.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.