The generals and other officials overseeing the desperate operation to rescue 12 young soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave labyrinth in Thailand's sweltering far north were only half joking when they quipped Monday that success was in the hands of the rain god Phra Pirun.
To get there, search and rescue teams including at least 90 divers have to pass through more than two-kilometers of narrow, flooded tunnels.
Two of them have been taken by ambulance to hospital while another two were airlifted, but none of them were stretchered out.
Authorities have said helicopters were ready to take cave evacuees to a hospital.
Authorities have also declined to provide the names and identities of the boys who were rescued. When the lost group was located on July 2, rescue medics who reached them evaluated all the boys and their coach and divided them into three categories: red for critical condition, yellow for serious condition and green for stable condition. The Thainavy confirmed to the Guardian that the first two boys were freed late on Sunday afternoon and then airlifted to Chiang Rai city, which is about 50 miles from the cave.
Writing in elegant Thai script, the boys urged their parents not to worry, adding that they hoped they wouldn't get too much homework after being rescued and couldn't wait to eat their favorite foods again.
Billionaire tech developer Elon Musk had also offered to provide assistance, in the form of a "kid-size submarine", which could arrive in Thailand early Monday, local time.
The soccer team and coach became stranded when they went exploring inside the cave after a practice back on June 23rd. Apart from the Thai authorities, 19 Australian divers are a part of the unsafe rescue mission.
The president of soccer's governing body, FIFA, has invited the boys to the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday if they make it out in time.
Four of 12 schoolboys have been rescued so far from a flooded Thai cave after divers launched a daring and unsafe mission to free the children and their soccer coach, who were trapped underground for more than two weeks, Thai officials said.
"It's risky to the most experienced divers to go through", one diver told Reuters.
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Four boys who are a part of a junior football team have been rescued.
In comments released by the government, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said officials were meeting Monday morning about the next stage of the operation and how to extract the remaining nine people from the cave in the country's north. Previously, the entire round trip through the cave network was thought to take about 11 hours.
Applause erupted as Mr Narongsak said he had met the children and their health is "perfect".
The same journey took six hours before pumps lowered the water level.
"The heaviest rain has yet to come", said CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar.
Videos showed Musk's team testing the metallic pod in an LA-area high school swimming pool. If the tests are successful, the sub would be placed on a 17-hour flight to Thailand.
After the four boys were removed from the cave, heavy rain started falling.
Authorities temporarily stopped their efforts Monday to replenish air tanks along the cave's treacherous exit route.
A relative of one of the 12 boys, speaking to Kyodo News, compared Sunday's rescue to a miracle, adding that she wishes to see the remaining boys and coach get out soon.
The hordes of global and local media have been kept back from the cave and the hospital in Chiang Rai where the boys are believed to be under observation.
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