Thailand: Six boys among a group of 13 trapped in a flooded Thai cave for more than a fortnight were rescued on Sunday, authorities said, raising hopes elite divers would also quickly save the others.
The first two boys emerged about nightfall from the Tham Luang cave complex after navigating a treacherous escape route of more than four kilometres (2.5 miles) through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways.
They were followed shortly afterwards by four others, leading to an explosion of jubilation on social media in Thailand and around the world as the rescued boys were rushed to hospital.“Six of them came out,” a defence ministry official, who asked not to be named, told AFP. Foreign elite divers and Thai Navy SEALS on Sunday morning began the complex operation to extract the 12 boys and their football coach as they raced against time, with imminent monsoon rains threatening more flooding that would doom the mission.
“Today is the D-day. The boys are ready to face any challenges,” rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters near the cave site on Sunday morning.
The group became trapped in a cramped chamber deep inside Tham Luang in a mountainous area of northern Thailand on June 23, when they went in after football practice and got caught behind rising waters.
Their plight transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, as authorities struggled to devise a plan to get the boys — aged between 11 and 16 — and their 25-year-old coach out.
The rescue of the first six was a stunning victory in an operation Narongsak had earlier dubbed “Mission Impossible”, and led to cautious optimism that the others would also be saved. Another official involved in the rescue operation said the initial six who had been saved formed a first group.
A second group made up of the others had also begun the journey from the chamber where they had been trapped, a rescue worker told AFP.
The quick extraction came as a surprise after one of the operation commanders said on Sunday morning the rescue efforts could take several days to complete.—AFP