UPDATE at July 9, 6.30 AM | FOUR of the 12 boys trapped in the flooded Thai cave have been successfully rescued.
The boys, believed to be the weakest of the group, were first brought to safety about 8.45pm AEST following a marathon international rescue mission.
They have been transported to a local hospital where they are currently receiving treatment. Their conditions are not yet known.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
Rescue crews are now desperately working against the clock in a bid to free the remaining eight boys and their 25-year-old coach, who remain trapped in the flooded cave.
It’s understood the operation has been halted for the time being, as crews refill air tanks with oxygen and regroup before heading back into the waters.
According to 9NEWS, the rescue is expected to restart around 11am Australian eastern time.
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) July 8, 2018
Additional reporting by Shanee Dobeson.
EARLIER at July 8, 10:20 PM | AT LEAST three of the 12 boys trapped in the flooded Thai cave have already been freed, according to local media reports.
It’s understood a number of the boys were already being guided out of the cave when it was announced a further 18 divers were making their way in to retrieve the group at 10am local time (1PM AEST).
The first boy is believed to have emerged from the mouth of the cave at 8:37pm AEST, the second at 8:50pm, and the third 16 minutes after that, according to multiple Thai media outlets.
It’s understood at least two of the boys are “safe and reasonably well”.
Two are said to have walked out of the cave, while the other reportedly needed assistance and was tended to at the cave’s entrance.
They were taken to the field hospital on site where they were examined by medics.
Its believed two ambulances have now left the cave site and the first helicopter has taken off en route to hospital with one, possibly two boys on board.
The remaining nine boys and their 25-year-old coach are right now still being guided through the treacherous cave system.
The rescue mission officially began at 1pm AEST and we were told it would take 18 divers five hours to reach the boys and another six hours to bring them out.
One by one, and accompanied by two divers each, they would be guided through four kilometres of narrow, pitch black passageways filled with cold and rushing muddy waters.
Authorities were not expecting the first boy to emerge from the cave until midnight at the earliest.
If all goes well, those remaining in the cave should begin emerging, one after the other, over the next several hours.
EARLIER at 4:30 PM | A MAJOR rescue operation to retrieve 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand is now underway.
A team of 13 specialist foreign divers and five Thai SEAL divers entered the treacherous cave at 10am local time (1PM AEST) on Sunday.
It’ll take them five hours to reach the boys and their coach – who have spent the last 16 days huddled together on a dry ledge in a small oxygen-depleted chamber deep inside the cave – and another six hours to bring them out.
One by one, and accompanied by two divers each, they will be guided through four kilometres of narrow, pitch black passageways filled with cold and rushing muddy waters.
The Thai governor leading the operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, told reporters it was “D-Day”, with medics including those from Australia declaring all 13 fit enough for the arduous six hour journey back out of the cave network.
“Their hearts are strong and determined. The boys are ready to face any challenges,” the governor said.
“The current situation, with the air and water levels and the boys’ health, is the best yet.
“Though we have been looking for shafts to go to the place where the children are located, we have not found one. The new monsoon is coming.
“I confirm that we are at war with water and time from the first day up to today.
“The children said they are ready to come out. They’re ready to join our mission. Family members know the mission, so we are all ready, physically and mentally.”
In some spaces, divers will be forced to remove their breathing tanks from their backs and carefully traverse jagged tunnels just 60cm wide.
The boys and their coach, all of whom are poor swimmers, have been given wetsuits, boots, helmets and scuba masks to wear.
It’s understood they will be fed oxygen from the navy diver’s tank and will have access to further oxygen if needed from emergency tanks strategically placed through the cave network.
Fortunately, it’s understood the 13 will only need to be fully submerged for a short distance, with current water levels allowing them to be guided through the channels with their heads above water for most of the way.
Narongsak said the team of expert divers carrying out the mission had been practising with simulated dives.
“We have planned the mission, with the duty of each person clear so there is no confusion,” he said. “We have trained from dawn till dusk.”
“We want you all to wait for the outcome, and please pray and send your encouragement for the mission.
“At 9pm (midnight AEST), you will see the result. We will bring the boys in pairs — each boy with two divers.”
However, Thai army commander Major General Chalongchai Chaiyakam has warned it could take “two, three or four days” to get them all out.
He believes the boys and their coach will most likely come out continuously, one after the other, over the course of 2-4 days.
FIRST on SUNDAY MORNING: An attempt to rescue a group of young boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand appears imminent with officials conceding time is running out.
The Thai Governor in charge of the rescue, Narongsak Osatanakorn has described the conditions now as ‘perfect’.
“The plan that I’ve held on to from the beginning is that we have to bring the kids out and the determining factor of this plan is to have as little water as possible,” he said.
Rescuers believe they only have a window of 3 or 4 days to mount the rescue with heavy rain starting to set in and oxygen levels inside the cave dropping.
Plastic sheets have been erected at the mouth of the cave, prompting speculation the rescue effort is about to get underway.
Meantime the boys have told their parents not to worry and “everyone is strong” in messages delivered by navy divers from inside the cave.
The boys’ soccer coach has also apologised, but many of the boys’ parents say they don’t blame him for the situation.