Thai Cave Mission: All 12 Boys, Coach Have Been Rescued

Sunday's mission, the second rescue, was completed over nine hours and resulted in four boys being removed from the complex cave network.

Thai officials have confirmed that all 13 members of the Wild Boar soccer team have been successfully rescued from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave. A team of 19 divers undertook the third and final mission, entering the flooded cave to retrieve the final four members of the team and their coach, who had been trapped underground for more than two weeks.

Sunday's mission, the second rescue, was completed in less than 10 hours and resulted in four boys being removed from the complex cave network. The mission mirrored Saturday's successful attempt to rescue the first group of four but reduced the task by some two hours.

“The first day we spent 11 hours, yesterday we spent nine hours, [today] we hope we can do it faster or the same as yesterday. If everything goes right, we will see four kids and a doctor and Seals that have stayed with the kids will all come out,” head of the joint command center, Narongsak Osatanakorn, said.

“Four plus one coach, so it’s five.”

The rescue parties will also extract a doctor as well as three Navy SEALs who had been monitoring the members of the soccer team.

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"Today Is The D-Day": Rescue Ops For Boys Trapped In Thai Cave Begin

Mae Sai, Thailand: Elite divers on Sunday began the extremely dangerous operation to extract 12 boys and their football coach who have been trapped in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand for more than two weeks, as looming monsoon rains threatened the rescue effort.

The "Wild Boars" team has been stuck in a cramped chamber several kilometres (miles) inside the Tham Luang cave complex since June 23, when they went in after football practice and were hemmed in by rising waters. 

Their plight has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, as authorities have struggled to devise a plan to get the boys and their coach out through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways that in some places are completely flooded.

"Today is the D-day. The boys are ready to face any challenges," rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters near the cave site as weather forecasters warned of more monsoon rains late on Sunday that would cause more flooding in the cave.

Narongsak said the first boy was expected to be brought out of the cave by around 9:00 pm (1400 GMT), meaning the trip would take around 11 hours.

The boys, aged from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were found dishevelled and hungry by British cave diving specialists nine days after they ventured in.

But initial euphoria over finding the boys alive quickly turned into deep anxiety as rescuers raced to find a way to get them out, with Narongsak at one point dubbing the effort "Mission Impossible".

The death of a former Thai Navy Seal diver who ran out of oxygen in the cave on Friday underscored the danger of the journey even for adept professionals.

Saman Kunan had been trying to establish an air line in a flooded area with oxygen tanks when he passed out and perished.

After a short deluge of rain on Saturday night and with more bad weather forecast, Narongsak on Sunday said authorities had to act immediately.

"There is no other day that we are more ready than today," he said. "Otherwise we will lose the opportunity."

Between the operating base manned by Thai Navy Seals inside the cave and the trapped boys are twisting, turning cave passageways with torrents of water gushing through.

The water in the cave is muddy and unclear, with one diver comparing it to a cafe latte. Ropes have been installed to help guide the boys through the darkness. 

Narongsak said Sunday two divers would accompany each of the boys out of the cave.

Rescue efforts 

Rescuers had fed a kilometres-long air pipe into the cave to restore oxygen levels in the chamber where the team was sheltering with medics and divers.

More than 100 exploratory holes had also been bored -- some shallow, but the longest 400 metres deep -- into the mountainside in an attempt to open a second evacuation route and avoid forcing the boys into the dangerous dive.

On Saturday, Thai Navy SEALS published touching notes scrawled by the trapped footballers to their families, who had been waiting for them agonisingly close by outside the cave entrance.

The boys urged relatives "not to worry" and asked for their favourite food once they were safely evacuated, in notes handed to divers.

In one, Pheerapat, nicknamed "Night", whose 16th birthday the group were celebrating in the cave when they became stuck on June 23, said: "I love you, Dad, Mum and my sister. You don't need to be worried about me."

The coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, who many Thais have criticised for leading the boys into the cave, also apologised. 

"To all the parents, all the kids are still fine. I promise to take the very best care of the kids," he said in a note given to divers on Friday.

  • Published in World
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