Four members of a Thai youth soccer team were rescued from a cave in northern Thailand on Sunday, leaving another eight boys and their soccer coach in the flooded cavern after 18 divers began a daring mission to bring home the group who have been trapped in the flooded cavern for more than two weeks.
The "Wild Boar" football team went exploring in the Tham Luang cave network after a football game on June 23 and got trapped kilometres deep inside the cave system as floodwaters caused by heavy rains blocked the entrance.
Chiang Rai provincial acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the rescue operation, said divers will need about 10 hours to prepare for the next phase of rescue, but that the operation was going "better than expected".
Their parents are waiting for them at Chiang Rai hospital, about an hour's drive away, the BBC reported.
The unsafe operation to rescue the 12 boys and their coach began early Sunday morning and the entire operation involves 90 expert divers from around the world.
The boys were rescued using full face masks, Narongsak said at a news conference where he described it as the "very smooth operation".
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that the U.S. government is working closely with Thai officials to get the children to safety.
The operation was launched at 10 am local time (0400 CET) on Sunday and involves 13 foreign divers and 5 Thai navy SEALs.
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Another concern for the remaining boys is their health and conditioning to make the arduous trip after nine days without food before they were found by navy divers.
Rescuing them all could take three to four days and depended on the weather, an army commander involved in the mission said.
The rescue mission began after rain showers soaked the Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province for the past 24 hours, heightening the risks in what the governor has called a "war with water and time" to save the team.
Monsoon flooding had initially cut off their escape, and rescuers were unable to find them for more than a week.
The only way to bring them out is by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygen-depleted air.
Mongkhol Boonpiam, 14, has been named by some Thai media as one of the rescued boys.
The group of boys along with their 25-year-old coach entered the cave on June 23, but became trapped due to unexpected rising water.
Mr Osatanakorn said a one-mile passage from the cave entrance to the third chamber, a staging ground for the mission, was "mostly walkable", adding: 'Although there are some slightly hard parts [where] we have to bend or crawl, we can say that we can just walk through it.