Operation to rescue Thai boys in flooded cave starts

Former navy diver dies during Thailand cave rescue effort

"So we took him to the hospital", Yookongkaew said, adding that the operation will keep going. That effort appears to be ahead of schedule. It could be hours before anyone emerges, a Thai army commander said, noting the rescue could take two to four days depending on conditions inside the partially flooded cave. Reuters reported around 9am eastern time that six of the boys had been rescued.

"Today was the best day, the best situation in terms of the weather, the health of the boys, our water management for our rescue effort", the head of the rescue operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, told a news conference.

The Thai official in charge of the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach says they're physically ready and mentally determined for their extraction now underway from a partially flooded cave.

"This is probably some of the most hard diving there is" in the rescue operation, she said, "and this is the rainy season" with constant fears of more flooding and perilous currents.

It was unclear who was inside the ambulances or the helicopter.

"We're still at war with water and time", he told reporters.

Two more boys were pulled from the cave a short time later from where they had been marooned by floodwaters more than two miles from the cave entrance, the Thai Navy SEAL official Facebook page said.

Australian diver and doctor Richard Harris is understood to be the man giving the medical all-clear for the 12 stranded Thai boys to begin their escape from the caves they have been trapped in for weeks.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after their soccer practice on June 23 as they set out to explore the Tham Luang cave complex in Northern Thailand. With the rainy season approaching, it could have been months before another opportunity arose, local officials said. But that entails plenty of risks as well, as the water could go up before it goes down.

While the oxygen level had stabilised he warned levels of carbon dioxide in the cave were another factor in considering when to move the group, in addition to impending rains, which could cover much of the muddy ledge on which the group are sheltering. Levels have fallen from 15 percent to 20 due to the presence of rescue workers in the cave, reports said. Normal air contains about 21 percent oxygen.

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