Monsoon Threatens Thailand Cave Rescue Operation

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A helicopter flew the four boys to the nearby city of Chiang Rai, where they were taken by ambulance to the hospital.

The first of the boys trapped inside a cave in Thailand have been brought out by rescuers, reports say. Operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said a total of 90 divers would be involved in the rescue mission, with 40 divers from Thailand, and 50 from overseas, including the United States, Australia, China, and Europe, according to the Washington Post.

But the success of the initial evacuation raised hopes that all will be out soon, although officials said could it take up to four days to complete. Twelve children between the age of 11 and 16 and a soccer coach had been trapped inside for more than two weeks. Major Saman Gunan, a former Thai Navy Seal who was volunteering for the rescue mission. All the boys were in good condition, Narongsak said. Having been stuck in the cave for two weeks, health concerns include dehydration, malnutrition and post-traumatic stress.

"Today was the best situation - in terms of the children's health, water and our rescue readiness", said Mr Narongsak, now governor of Phayao province but still head of the joint command centre coordinating the rescue.

The underwater escape option had been considered an absolute last resort but it became necessary when heavy monsoon rains were forecast, bringing with it the possibility of flooding the area where the boys were sheltering.

Divers are guiding the boys in darkness through tight and hard passageways.

The pause comes after rescue teams freed four of the boys.

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Officials said at a news conference that the parents of the rescued boys, whose names have not been released, have not yet been allowed to have physical contact with them, pending more extensive examination of their physical condition. It takes several hours.

"We have to place new oxygen tanks (along the route) as the previous ones have been used in today's operation", he noted.

Mr Narongsak said yesterday morning that the boys and their coach were physically and mentally strong enough to dive their way out of Tham Luang. They eventually found a dry landing spot, where they waited for nine days before being found by two British divers.

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. According to the Thai government, when they reached a spot that couldn't fit a person and an oxygen tank, the divers would take the boy's tank off his back while slowly guiding the boy through the narrow passages.

The boys were trapped in the cave when unexpected rains made their trip out impossible.

A frantic rescue mission was hatched in the week since they were found.

The Thai navy SEALS confirmed that four boys have left the cave. After an initial assessment at the site, the plan was to airlift the boys to a makeshift helipad close to the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, some 70 km away.

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