Four of the 12 boys trapped with their soccer coach in a cave in Thailand for 16 days were successfully extracted by divers in an hours-long subterranean rescue mission that has gripped the attention of the world, according to the Thai Navy SEALs.
The international effort to save the group has paired elite divers in “buddy teams” with the remaining eight boys and their coach.
The first four boys who were rescued, described as the weakest of the group, were removed from the cave a couple of minutes apart, immediately placed into ambulances and rushed to a hospital, authorities told ABC News. The conditions of the boys were not immediately known.
Fighting floodwaters, rapidly dropping oxygen levels, and racing against an impending monsoon rainstorm, the final stage of the rescue operation began at 10 a.m. when 13 international divers entered the cave, 10 of them headed to the chamber deep inside the underground labyrinth in northern Thailand. Some nine hours later, the divers emerged from the mouth of the cavern with the first rescued boy and was quickly followed by the second, authorities said.
The operation to save the once-stranded 13 appeared doubtful just days ago as rescuers from Thailand, the United States, Australia, China and Great Britain brainstormed to find a way to remove the soccer team despite facing treacherous conditions and having to train boys, who did not know how to swim, how to perform the most perilous type of diving even for the most experienced Navy SEALs.
The high drama in Thailand’s longest cave even drew help from American billionaire businessman Elon Musk, whose SpaceX designers set aside their rocketship venture to build a “kid-sized” submarine to free the trapped boys.
Authorities said at a press conference Sunday morning in Chiang Rai province that they made the decision to rescue the boys as oxygen drops and the threat of monsoon rains approaches. Due to the length of the journey out of the cave, officials said the first boy was expected to come out at 9 p.m. local time, which is 10 a.m. Sunday Eastern time. The officials said the operation could take two or three days.