Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Four boys first to be rescued from cave after 15-day ordeal

Four boys first to be rescued from cave after 15-day ordeal

And the four were taken to the hospital in Chiang Rai as soon as they got out, though their condition isn't known.

The rescue operation will now pause for at least 10 hours, according to Narongsak Osatanakorn, chief of the command centers coordinating the rescue, so that divers can replenish their oxygen tanks.

The soccer coach trapped in a Thai cave with 12 boys for almost two weeks apologized to their parents in a handwritten note released Saturday, promising to take care of the children during the rescue mission "as best as I can". Upon rescue, the boys will receive an initial medical assessment at a makeshift triage site before being airlifted to Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, which is about 70 km away from the cave. Major Saman Gunan, a former Thai Navy Seal who was volunteering for the rescue mission. But authorities have said it remains unclear how long the boys would have to remain inside.

In a letter of his own, coach Ekapol Chanthawong apologized to the boys' parents for the ordeal.

Osottanakorn told reporters that the team had rehearsed the plan for several days, and had cleared a sizeable amount of the flooding from the cave.

"They've been raining for the last four to five hours and the concern is that water is running straight back down into the cave and there are big concerns that that could in some way hamper this rescue effort". The Thai navy confirmed to the Guardian that the first two boys were freed late on Sunday afternoon and then airlifted to Chiang Rai city, which is about 50 miles from the cave.

"The teams here are happy the boys are being rescued but also anxious about the severity of the boys' conditions".

"The monsoonal pattern is present, meaning rain arriving in waves, which can't be adequately timed as they can escalate quickly", CNN meteorologist Gene Norman said Sunday evening.

Thailand has waited anxiously for news of the safe return of the boys and their 25-year-old coach since they became trapped in the Tham Luang cave complex on June 23, in a saga that has dominated global headlines.

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■ While the rescue was expected to take a few days, the first boy came out at 5:40 pm (4:10 pm IST).

The boys, who had no diving experience, navigated through 5km of complex passageways, including a total of 1km of submerged parts escorted by the divers, said Mr Narongsak.

Worldwide media have begun minute-by-minute reporting of the operation to save 13 people from Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai province with some dubbing the effort "Mission Impossible" to highlight the high level of difficulty.

The rest of the rescues were put on hold Sunday night while air tanks and other systems are refilled.

Their families have been informed and reportedly agreed with the decision to make the most of the opportunity to get the boys out before the forecasted monsoonal rain sets in.

The other, and perhaps more worrying, was that oxygen levels in the complex were falling close to unsafe levels.

A multi-pronged rescue effort has been underway since they were found almost a week ago.

Somboon Sompiangjai, 38, the father of one of the trapped boys, said parents were told by rescuers ahead of Sunday's operation the "strongest children" would be brought out first. Thai navy SEALs say four of the 12 soccer team members are out of the cave.

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