Rescuers in Thailand have begun a complicated mission to evacuate 12 young boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave, where they have been trapped for 15 days now.
Rescuers began the mission early Sunday morning, according to head of the rescue mission Narongsak Osottanakorn, who said it would take many hours before the first boy would emerge from the cave.
The boys, aged 11 to 16, along with their 25-year old soccer coach, were found in the cave on Monday after being missing for nine days. They had gone exploring after soccer practice on June 23 and became trapped by heavy rains flooding the cave’s entrance.
A team of Thai Navy SEALs with a navy doctor and a nurse managed to join them inside the cave on Tuesday. A video emerged from inside the cave showing the boys and their coach being treated by the doctor.
Earlier on Sunday, Thai authorities ordered the media to clear the site around the cave, signaling that the rescue effort was imminent.
Making the announcement over a loudspeaker, police Commander Komsan Sa-ardluan called for an evacuation of the area around the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand so that rescuers could “help victims.”
“Everyone who is not involved with the operations has to get out of the area immediately,” he said. “From the situation assessment, we need to use the area to help victims.”
The head of the rescue mission had said on Saturday that weather conditions were “perfect” for the evacuation to begin.
“Now and in the next three or four days, the conditions are perfect [for evacuation] in terms of the water, the weather, and the boys’ health,” he explained.
The boys and their coach are now located in a small chamber four kilometers inside of the cave network, which is no longer thought safe.