The authorities in Thailand have confirmed that an operation to rescue 12 boys and their football coach from flooded caves is now underway. The group have been trapped underground for more than two weeks.
The acting Governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osatanakorn, said 13 foreign and five Thai divers are participating in the rescue, and two divers will accompany each boy as they are gradually extracted. The operation began at 10am on Sunday July 8th; he said it would take at least 11 hours for the first person to be brought to safety.
The entire operation to get all 13 out of the cave could last for between 2 and 4 days, depending on weather and water conditions, added army Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakam.
The only way to bring the boys out of the caves at Tham Luang Nang Non is through miles of dark and narrow passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygen-depleted air. A former Thai Navy SEAL passed out making the dive on Friday and later died.
Experienced cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape a last resort, especially for people inexperienced in diving. The only way out is considered especially complicated because of twists and turns in narrow flooded passages.
But the Governor in charge of the rescue mission said mild weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created good conditions for an underwater evacuation, conditions that will not persist if it rains again, as reported by Associated Press.