Thailand cave rescue: six boys brought out

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Boys from the under-16 soccer team trapped inside Tham Luang cave greet members of the Thai rescue team in Chiang Rai. REUTERS

CHIANG RAI (Reuters) – Six members of a Thai schoolboy soccer team have been rescued from the flooded cave where they had been trapped for more than two weeks, a local rescue official said yesterday.

A senior member of the rescue medical team reportedly told Reuters that six boys exited the Tham Luang cave complex as of 8:30 pm local time.

Authorities in northern Chiang Rai province began the dangerous mission to bring out the 12 boys and their coach early yesterday.

According to reports, the rescue team first brought out two boys , followed by another pair, and wound up the rescue for the day after bringing out another two.

Efforts to rescue the remaining members of the team is expected to resume today.

The rescued boys were given a physical examination at the field hospital near the cave before being moved to Chiang Rai hospital, according to Tossathep Boonthong, chief of Chiang Rai’s health department and part of the rescue team.

Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand’s elite navy SEAL unit are working round the clock to bring the remaining boys and their coach – some as young as 11 and weak swimmers – through narrow, submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver on Friday.

Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue mission, said at 10am yesterday, 13 foreign divers went in to extract the children along with five Thai navy SEALs.

He had said the first boys – who have spent 15 nights trapped some 4 km inside the flooded cave – could emerge around 9 pm local time.

Rain soaked the Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province yesterday and stormy weather is expected for the next two weeks, increasing the risks in what has been called a “war with water and time” to save the team.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after soccer practice on June 23, setting out on an adventure to explore the cave complex near the border with Myanmar and celebrate a boy’s birthday.

The rescue teams had rehearsed the plan for several days, Narongsak said, and they had to move now.

To escape, the boys must dive through dark, narrow passageways sometimes no more than two feet wide, that have challenged some of the world’s leading cave divers. Authorities had expected it would take about 11 hours to do a round-trip from the cave entrance to where the boys are huddled on a muddy bank.

An Australian doctor checked the health of the boys on Saturday night and gave the all clear for the rescue to proceed.

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