4 Kids Have Been Saved!

08 Jul, 2018

Divers carried out the first four members of a youth soccer team trapped in a cave here for more than two weeks after long hours of complex, perilous transit through a treacherous, twisting and partially flooded network of tunnels stretching more than two miles into earth.

Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osottanakorn did not reveal the condition of the boys, each outfitted in full scuba face masks and escorted by two seasoned divers. Divers escorted the first boy from the cave at around 5:40 p.m. local time, less than eight hours after the rescue operation started. The other three boys came out of the cave over the next two hours.

“After 16 days of waiting, we get to see the faces of the Wild Boars,” he said, referencing the name of the soccer team.

He said the rescue mission was halted temporarily to review the operation thus far and restock the cave with oxygen tanks and other equipment. The mission was expected to resume in 10-20 hours, he said.

Narongsak said 90 divers and support team members, 50 of them from other nations including the U.S., were involved in the complex rescue mission. The boys judged to be in the best condition were expected to be extracted first.

“It’s more successful than I expected and everyone’s happy,” he said. “We were faster than we expected.”

The kids were placed in ambulances and given medical assessments before being shuttled, some via helicopters, to Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, more than 30 miles away.

“We can have good dreams tonight,” the Thai navy SEALs wrote in a post on Facebook.

The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach hiked more than two miles into the cave complex after a soccer practice on June 23. Heavy rains partially flooded the cave, blocking the team’s exit.

Nagonsak said the precarious journey back out could take 10-12 hours for each boy, and that extracting everyone could take days. A SEAL involved in preparations for the rescue passed out and died Friday, highlighting the dangers presented by the cave and the extraction.

“Today is D-Day,” Narongsak said, adding that the weather and the water levels in the cave were good. “The boys are healthy, aware and ready to come out.”

The world has been transfixed by the plight of the boys and help was offered from nations around the globe.

“The U.S. is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety,” President Donald Trump tweeted minutes after word spread that the first boys were rescued. “Very brave and talented people!”

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

Water levels inside the massive Tham Luang cave complex in northern Chiang Rai province dropped by about a foot on Saturday and were at their lowest levels since the team became trapped. Rescuers are able to walk deep into the cave, all the way to the “third chamber,” which is around one mile away from where the boys are located.

Narongsak said that there was no time limit on the rescue and that its progress would depend on weather and conditions inside the cave, but it is expected to last through Monday.

“If something changes, we’ll stop,” he said. “But I expect the operation to finish within the next couple of days.

Early Sunday morning, all media and non-essential staff were cleared from the cave site area as divers, medics and military began moving into place.

Dark clouds and fog shrouded the area around the cave as a steady rain began falling in the early afternoon. Storms were expected to continue through Monday as Thailand’s monsoon season gets underway.

The boys sounded calm and reassuring in handwritten notes to their families that were transported by divers and made public Saturday.

One of the boys, identified as Tun, wrote: “Mom and Dad, please don’t worry, I am fine. I’ve told Yod to get ready to take me out for fried chicken. With love.”

Residents of the nearby town of Mae Sai, located directly on the border with Myanmar around seven miles away from the cave entrance, have been following the saga of the boys’ disappearance and rescue efforts intently.

“We are talking about it all the time,” said Napattra Chokumpompan, 21, who works at a hotel in Mae Si.

“I watch the news on my phone, my mom is watching on TV,” said Chokumpompan, who graduated from the same school that six of the boys currently attend, Mae Si Prasitsart School.

“They are all of our students, all of our friends, all of our children,” she said.

Poonsak Sripiromrak, who runs a shop selling gems, jewelry and religious statues in Mae Si, said the story has kept everyone in town on edge for the more than two weeks since the boys first went missing.

“We are worried every day,” she said. “We hope they are coming out today.”

USA Today

Image AJEnglish twitter

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