First boys rescued from Thailand cave

Thai rescue team members walk inside a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23 in Mae Sai Chiang Rai province northern Thailand

Thai officials said Saturday they are anxious that heavy monsoon rain could soon make the job even more hard and they may need to quickly rescue the boys and the soccer coach from a partially flooded cave by helping them make risky dives to safety.

Several media outlets reported the initial plan was to start with the strongest boys first, but the plan seems to have been reversed with the weakest boys rescued first, according to Thai media and the BBC.

He said the next operation will be conducted on Tuesday.

At a press conference that took place after the four boys were freed, Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command center, said that he met the children.

After a short deluge of rain on Saturday night and with more bad weather forecast, Narongsak on Sunday said authorities had to act immediately.

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The next operation will begin in 10 to 20 hours and will involve 90 divers, he said.

Eight of boys and the coach remained inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex as authorities paused the worldwide effort until Monday to replenish air tanks along the treacherous exit route. "I promise to take the very best care of the kids", he said in a note given to divers on Friday. The first group will have four boys and group two, three, and four will have three.

Already the operation has killed one diver, former Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan.

Once the lucky quartet were taken from the caves on Sunday, it began raining again making time of the essence.

Authorities have said helicopters were ready to take cave evacuees to a hospital. A major concern of the rescuers is that oxygen levels in their safe space could fall dangerously low. Earlier efforts to pump out water from the cave have been set back every time there has been a heavy downpour.

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Provincial Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said the mission was a 'race against the water'. "With the entire round trip taking roughly 11 hours to complete, it could be days before the entire group emerges".

In all, 13 foreign divers and five Thai SEALS are involved in the rescue.

The boys aged 11 to 16 are members of the Mu Pa Academy Mae Sai football club and have been trapped inside the Tham Luang cave with their coach, Ekapol Chantawong, 25, since June 23.

The ordeal has riveted Thailand and captured the world's attention. CNN reported that US rescue divers did not directly participate in Sunday's initial operations, but that Americans were serving in "support and advisory" roles. The boys sounded calm and reassuring in handwritten notes to their families that were made public Saturday. "Based on the complexity and difficulty of the cave environment it is unknown how long it might take and how many children would exit the cave", the governor further explained. "I can't tell you exact timing of the next operation". One of the boys, identified as Tun, wrote: "Mom and Dad, please don't worry, I am fine".

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