The 12 boys and their coach have spent 15 days trapped in the complex cave network below the Mae Sai mountains, in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, after wandering in to explore.
Four boys have been successfully rescued but for now, the mission has been paused for at least 10 hours as air tanks need to be replaced.
After fears that rising waters would make any later rescue attempts impossible, rescuers decided to go ahead with the hazardous operation yesterday. The next phase of the mission will begin soon, after relaying “all of the air tanks and all systems along the way”, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said.
The operation is a long and arduous one, with divers guiding the boys through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the Tham Luang cave system. Each boy pulled out was accompanied by two divers on the difficult 4km journey through murky waters and narrow tunnels. According to reports, they were able to walk most of the way after the water was drained by 30cm last night.
Rescuers took advantage of a break in the rain to launch the mission much earlier than originally expected. The first phase has also been conducted much faster than officials had predicted.
Thirty-five emergency doctors were on standby as the ‘exhausted’ boys were flown by military helicopter or driven in ambulances to Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital.
A staggering 90 divers have been involved in the rescue in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex, with only 40 of them coming from Thailand.