CHIANG RAI, Thailand –Rescue operation to evacuate 12 boys and their coach trapped in northern Thailand's cave has been underway since about 10:00 a.m. local time on Sunday, Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakom said at a briefing.
He said 13 international cave diving experts and five elite rescuers from Thai Navy SEAL joined the operation, adding that the trapped boys will be dived out one by one and each boy will be escorted by two divers.
The governor said it would take about 11 hours to totally bring a boy out of the cave. The first boy may come out of the cave at about 9 p.m. local time.
Officials said it will take about two to four days to bring all the 13 out of the cave. "It's the best timing to take the boys out, as they are physically and mentally ready to be evacuated," said the governor.
"They are ready to face any challenge. The water level in chamber one to three of the cave is at a most satisfying level right now. Medical teams are well prepared for further operation." Narongsak added.
The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing in the cave in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai Province since June 23. They were located on a small cliff about 4 kilometers away from the cave entrance when the search entered the ninth day on July 2. More than 1,000 rescuers from all over the world joined the search operation.
The governor said rescue teams found about 100 shafts on the mountain, but no one links to the main cave where the boys were found.
The 2-km distance from where the boys were found to a safe command center inside the cave has been mostly inundated so rescue teams have to dive the boys out.
Teaching the boys, some not strong swimmers, to make a dive through dark, narrow passageways sometimes less than 70 centimeters, has challenged some of the world's leading cave divers.
Dark monsoon rain clouds loomed over the mountainous north of the country early on Sunday. As the oxygen is running out in the cave and the area is bracing for more rains that means potential floodwater to submerge the cave, rescuers are still in a "war with water and time," according to the governor.Enditem ---