Thai cave rescue: Divers begin mission to rescue 12 trapped boys as monsoon rain looms

'Today is D-Day,' officials say

Matt Blomberg
Chiang Rai
,Tom Barnes
Sunday 08 July 2018 09:16
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Mission to rescue Thai boys from cave begins

Divers have begun the operation to rescue 12 Thai boys and their football coach, who have been trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks.

Officials on Sunday morning said that “today is D-Day” as they face a race against time to extract the children from the narrow Tham Luang cave complex before more monsoon rains arrive.

Chiang Rai acting governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said 13 foreign and five Thai divers were taking part in the rescue and two divers will accompany each boy as they are gradually removed.

The operation began at 10am local time, with authorities suggesting it would take at least 11 hours for the first person to be rescued.

The expert divers have been clocked at about 11 hours for the round trip – more than a mile each way.

Meanwhile, the boys – some of whom it is believed cannot swim – have been learning to use underwater breathing apparatus since they were first located on July 2.

“I assure you that they are physically and mentally ready to come out, no matter what challenges lie ahead,” the governor said.

Authorities reported that water levels inside the cave network, which stretches some six miles into Doi Nang Non mountain, are at their lowest in days, with the divers now able to walk through the previously flooded areas known as Chambers 1, 2 and 3.

Authorities had said that incoming monsoon rains that could send water levels in the cave rising, coupled with falling oxygen levels in the enclosed space, added to the urgency of getting those trapped out.

Earlier efforts to pump out water from the cave have been set back every time there has been a heavy downpour.

Mr Narongsak said Saturday that experts told him water from new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square metres (108 square feet).

“I confirm that we are at war with water and time from the first day up to today,” he said Saturday.

“Finding the boys doesn't mean we've finished our mission. It is only a small battle we've won, but the war has not ended.

“The war ends when we win all three battles — the battles to search, rescue and send them home.”

Efforts to save all 13 people trapped in the cave could last between two and four days, depending on weather and water conditions, Thai army major general Chalongchai Chaiyakam said.

The only way to remove the team is through a series of narrow, waterlogged passageways, where visibility is poor.

The route is challenging for even the most experienced divers and a former Thai Navy Seal died on Friday trying to make his way through the tunnels.

Thai police officers proceed on the traffic to clear the area in front of the cave during the 'D-Day' for the ongoing rescue operation

An update Saturday from the Thai navy said three Navy Seals were with the boys and their coach, one a doctor.

The 13 were having health evaluations and rehabilitation, and were being taught diving skills. Food, electrolyte drinks, drinking water, medicine and oxygen canisters have been delivered to them.

A major concern of the rescuers is that oxygen levels in their safe space could fall dangerously low.

Rescuers have been unable to extend a hose pumping oxygen all the way to where the boys are, but have brought them some oxygen tanks.

Additional reporting by AP

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