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Thailand cave rescue: First boys rescued from trapped soccer team

Foreign elite divers and Thai Navy SEALS on Sunday morning began the complex operation to extract the 12 boys and their football coach as they raced against time, with imminent monsoon rains threatening more flooding that would doom the mission.

Between the operating base manned by Thai Navy SEALs inside the cave and the trapped boys are twisting, turning cave passageways with torrents of water gushing through.

Rescue operation commander Narongsak Osottanakorn told a news conference that he is very happy to see the four more boys rescued safely. To get a sense of the overwhelming worldwide interest in the effort, the post attracted tens of thousands of likes and more than 10,000 comments within an hour.

The boys and their coach became stranded when they went exploring in the cave after a practice game June 23.

Another four were rescued on Monday and the last four boys and the coach were brought out on Tuesday, prompting rounds of spontaneous applause as ambulances and helicopters passed.

Rescuers have suggested that it may take up to two days for the rescue to be completed, with each boy being brought out individually.

The next operation for the rest is set to resume in 10-20 hours, with officials and volunteers buoyed by the fact that their method of rescuing the boys by diving has been successful so far, he said.

Bursts of heavy monsoon rain soaked the Tham Luang cave area yesterday and storms were expected in the coming weeks, increasing the risks in what has been called a "war with water and time" to save the team.

You can find live updates about the effort here and here.

They spent nine days unaccounted for inside the cave, before British divers found the emaciated and dishevelled group huddling on a muddy bank.

An Australian doctor with cave diving experience examined the boys on Sunday and declared them fit for the operation.

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The divers entered the Chiang Rai cave on an 11-hour round trip to rescue the 12 boys and their soccer coach at 10am on Sunday (1300 AEST). We will have to do the next mission as successfully as the one we did today.

"The prime minister said that this kind of event should never happen again on Thai soil", Narongsak said.

Responding to a question on Twitter, the entrepreneur and engineering mastermind said "divers who have made the passage", believe the pod is small enough to fit through the most narrow portions of the cave.

Six of the twelve boys trapped in the cave in Thailand have been rescued according to the local officials.

Provincial Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said the mission was a 'race against the water'. Per the Bangkok Post, the boys have been split up into four groups.

"It's risky to the most experienced divers to go through", one diver told Reuters.

"To all the parents, all the kids are still fine".

Inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex, hazards lurk behind every corner and getting everyone out could take another four days, authorities said.

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

The risky mission, which required rescuers to traverse flooded, narrow cave passageways, already claimed the life of a former member of Thailand's elite Navy diving team.

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