Thailand cave rescue: navy Seals confirm four boys have been rescued – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Thailand cave rescue: navy Seals confirm four boys have been rescued – live” was written by Mattha Busby (now), Kate Lyons (earlier), for theguardian.com on Sunday 8th July 2018 19.25 Asia/Kolkata

The press conference is underway.

A round of applause erupted after Narongsak Osottanakorn, who is head of the joint command centre which is coordinating the search, said he had met the children.

He said their health is “perfect” and called today the “best situation”.

Another operation to free more of the boys will commence in 10-12 hours, according to the governor.

50 foreign divers and 40 Thai divers are currently involved in the rescue operation.

Updated

A helicopter flies over the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, around 50 miles from the rescue site, following two ambulances which arrived earlier.

The condition of one of the freed boys is being ‘closely monitored’ – local reports

The Thai news site Khaosod English is reporting that one of the four boys rescued from the cave is being “closely monitored”.

More photos have emerged of the helicopter landing, and taking off, at the rescue site and of ambulances arriving at the hospital.

At the cave entrance, a number of rescuers were just seen to be walking away wearing illuminated hard hats.

A military helicopter lands to carry some of the rescued boys.
A military helicopter lands to carry some of the rescued boys.
Photograph: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA
An ambulance arrives at hospital.
An ambulance arrives at hospital.
Photograph: Pongmanat Tasiri/EPA
A Royal Thai Police helicopter carrying rescued schoolboys takes off near Tham Luang cave complex.
A Royal Thai Police helicopter carrying rescued schoolboys takes off near Tham Luang cave complex.
Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Updated

Yet more ambulances are leaving the scene, according to sources at the scene, as a helicopter flies over the press centre to rapturous applause from journalists and volunteers.

A press conference has been called for 9pm local time, around 30 mins from now.

It is unclear whether the boys swum out, or if they were sedated and delivered by the rescuers.

Updated

The US president Donald Trump has suddenly announced that his government are working closely with the Thai government to help evacuate the cave.

He paid tribute to unspecified “Very brave and talented people!” in what is thought to be his first public comment with regards to the Thai cave rescue operation.

Earlier this week, Elon Musk announced that he was sending engineers from The Boring Company, as well as SpaceX experts, to the rescue site to assist authorities, with whom he had been in contact with.

Sources are telling the Guardian’s Michael Safi that the third and fourth boys to have been rescued are receiving medical examinations outside the cave, while the fifth and sixth boys are about to emerge – or indeed may already be out.

Updated

Up to four boys from a group of 12 children who have been trapped inside a cave in northern Thailand for more than two weeks have been freed, the Guardian has confirmed.

Sources in the diving team and the Thai navy confirmed the first two boys were freed late on Sunday afternoon and were airlifted to Chiang Rai city, about 50 miles away.

The Thai navy Seals Facebook page posted that an additional two boys had also been freed – the third at 7.35pm local time and the fourth 12 minutes later.

Unconfirmed reports are also circulating in international and local media that the first boy to be rescued was Mongkol Boonpiem, 13, while the second was Prachak “Note” Sutham, 14.

Updated

The latest photos from Chiang Rai.

An ambulance arrives at hospital.
An ambulance arrives at hospital.
Photograph: Pongmanat Tasiri/EPA
Rescue workers along the main road leading to the cave.
Rescue workers along the main road leading to the cave.
Photograph: Linh Pham/Getty Images
Rescue workers along the main road leading to the cave.
Rescue workers along the main road leading to the cave.
Photograph: Linh Pham/Getty Images

Updated

What we know so far

The Guardian’s Michael Safi is at the scene in Mae Sai and has been in touch to confirm what we know so far.

  • The Guardian understands at least two boys have been rescued from a northern Thailand cave were they were trapped with 10 other children and their coach for the past 15 nights
  • Those two boys were rushed by ambulance to a helicopter and airlifted 50 miles to a hospital in Chiang Rai, which they reached a little while ago
  • Some Thai media outlets and Reuters are reporting that four more boys have also have been removed from the cave in the past few minutes

Updated

Six boys have now exited the cave – reports

A senior member of the rescue medical team has reportedly told Reuters that six boys have now exited the Tham Luang cave complex.

Reuters and local media report that the first boys rescued from the cave have been transferred by helicopter to the hospital in Chiang Rai.

Here are several photos of an ambulance leaving the rescue site.

One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after the rescue operation began.
One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after the rescue operation began.
Photograph: Sakchai Lalit/AP
One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after the rescue operation began.
One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after the rescue operation began.
Photograph: Sakchai Lalit/AP

Four boys expected to ‘walk out’ soon – AFP reports

Lieutenant-General Kongcheep Tantrawanit has said another four of the boys are expected to walk out “shortly”.

They are currently at the divers’ “base camp”, inside the cave system, he said, according to Agence France Press.

“Four boys have reached chamber three and will walk out of the cave shortly,” he said,.

Another ambulance is going up, according to the BBC’s Helier Cheung.

It has been reported that doctors assessed the boys inside the cave on Saturday and drew up an priority evacuation list with the weakest to be brought out first, and the strongest to be rescued last.

Updated

A reporter at the scene has apparently been told by rescue teams at the entrance of the cave that the lowered water levels have shortened the journey out of the cave.

Many chambers are reportedly walk-able now, which would go some way to corroborating the Reuters report.

Further rain, however, is forecast later today.

A helicopter has apparently taken off from the vicinity of the cave complex.

Thai media are broadcasting live on Facebook.

Updated

The BBC has posted a video of an ambulance leaving the cave site.

Which is promptly followed by a second.

Updated

First two boys have been rescued, local officials tell Reuters

The first two members of the Thai football team have been rescued, a local rescue official told Reuters.

“Two kids are out. They are currently at the field hospital near the cave,” said Tossathep Boonthong, chief of Chiang Rai’s health department and part of the rescue team.

“We are giving them a physical examination. They have not been moved to Chiang Rai hospital yet,” Tossathep told Reuters.

Updated

I’ve just spoken to a source inside the rescue operation. He says mounting Thai media reports that at least two boys may already have been released are “not wrong”, but was unable to say more, citing restrictions placed on them by rescue authorities.

If it has happened already, that’s more than two hours ahead of even the most optimistic schedule set by authorities this morning – an extraordinary beginning to the end of the this saga.

Contradictory reports circulate regarding emergence of two trapped boys

Various contradictory reports are circulating regarding the emergence of two of the boys.

Reuters says, citing a local official, that the first two members of the Thai football team have been recovered from the cave.

ITV’s John Irvine says that a local police chief has just told him that two of the boys are out of the cave complex. They are apparently safe and reasonably well.

The Bangkok Post, meanwhile, says the first 2 boys are on their way to the entrance of the cave suggesting that they have completed the swim and are now walking through the chambers.

The Guardian cannot confirm any of these reports. If the boys have escaped, it would be at least two hours ahead of schedule.

Updated

Thirteen medical teams are standing ready outside the cave – each with its own helicopter and ambulance – one for each of 12 boys and their coach.

After an initial assessment at the site, there are plans for the boys to be airlifted around 50 miles to the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital.

A source at the hospital told Reuters that five emergency response doctors were awaiting the party and a further 30 doctors were on stand-by, adding that everyone was feeling tense.

Thai police officers on security for the arrival of the rescued youth soccer team and their assistant coach at a road outside the hospital in Chiang Rai province.
Thai police officers on security for the arrival of the rescued youth soccer team and their assistant coach at a road outside the hospital in Chiang Rai province.
Photograph: Pongmanat Tasiri/EPA

“The teams here are happy the boys are being rescued but also anxious about the severity of the boys’ conditions. We’re under a lot of pressure,” she said, under condition of anonymity because she was not allowed to speak to the media.

The area outside the hospital is cordoned off and police are patrolling the area. On the street leading to the hospital, vendors are being ordered to “keep off the road” and to “not obstruct the transfer mission”.

Thai police officers stand guard outside the hospital in Chiang Rai province.
Thai police officers stand guard outside the hospital in Chiang Rai province.
Photograph: Pongmanat Tasiri/EPA

There has reportedly been a flurry of activity near the cave with people being ordered to leave the sides of the roads amid rumours a high-ranking politician may soon be arriving.

Updated

Governor: ‘It is unknown how long it will take before the team can bring out the first batch of boys’

In a press release, the head of the joint command centre, Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn, issued an update on the progress of the cave rescue operation.

The operation began at 10am when 13 international divers entered the cave. 10 of them headed for chamber 9 (where the boys are) and chamber 6 (near the junction) as planned. Another 3 cave divers performed their duty to support diving efforts beginning at 14.00.

There are a number of additional rescue personnel including divers, from Thailand, USA, Australia, China and Europe stationed from chamber 3 to the entrance. This includes a rope system to assist over difficult terrain in chambers 2 and 3.

Due to the difficulty of the operation, Osottanakorn says it is unknown how long it will be until the first child has made it out – it had been suggested earlier today that the first of the boys could be out by 3pm BST.

Because of the complexity of the cave and difficulty of the operation. it is unknown how long it will take before the team can bring out the first batch of boys. The divers will work with medics in the cave to assess the boys’ health before determining who will come out first.

They cannot decide how many of them will be able to come out for the first operation.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.

Updated

The boys are expected to now be swimming throughout the passageways in tandem with the cave divers.

A graphic published by the Thai News Agency illustrates the task ahead in what it calls the “cave maze-bottle neck”.

Renewed monsoon downpours above them have come and gone throughout the past hour, according to reporters at the scene.

Jacob Goldberg, who is reporting for the Guardian, says:

Earlier this afternoon, reporters working frantically under a network of plastic canopies at the Pong Pha sub-district office snatched their devices to save them from a sudden torrent of rain that streamed through the many cracks in the shelter.

Though normal in Thailand this time of year, each instance of rainfall puts a look of panic on the faces of everyone covering the rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the belly of the nearby mountain.

Fortunately, the worst of the wetness lasted only a few minutes, and work quickly returned to normal. It rained lightly for less than an hour, and now, the mountain and the area around it are dry, prolonging the favourable conditions that allowed the rescue attempt to begin this morning.

Rafael Aroush, an Israeli volunteer diver tells CNN that speed is “very, very important,” now, he says. “(There) might be crucial changes in the rescue operation (plan) and somebody will make a decision maybe to bring more of them out today.”

He says because the cave is limestone and there are many streams overflowing into the system, ongoing inclement weather could “destroy the whole operation.”

Updated

A plastic model mapping the mountains above where the boys and their coach are trapped has been spotted in a local government office.

Andy Eavis, former head of the British caving association, tells the BBC that the cave divers at the scene are “the masters of the profession” and have “the best chance of anyone on earth” at successfully rescuing the boys.

I should point out straight away from diving in caves is significantly different to diving in open water.

It was very important to get cave divers out there,veople who have the right mindset to operate in these types of conditions – low visibility, tight spaces and no air space above.

So they have got a team now of international cave divers and that is the key to this. They are the masters of the profession and they have been in these situations before. They have the best chance of anyone on earth at getting these guys out.

He goes on to say that “the only real danger is panic” and that if the boys get used to being underwater then they should make it out safely.

The word to avoid here is panic. There’s been a lot of positives like the fact the boys themselves did not panic when they were in the dark for nine days. They’re pretty cool, calm collected about it now. The authorities are not panicking and I know the cave divers are also not panicking.

When they put [the boys] in the water with scuba gear on, the only real danger is panic. If they can get them used to being underwater and breathing underwater they will get them out safely.

Updated

The first group of boys should be on their way back now.

Helicopters await to ferry them to the region’s largest hospital almost 60 miles away.

This graphic of the cave layout sketches out the complex more clearly than any other I have seen so far.

Updated

Veena Thoopkrajae, who is on the ground working for the Guardian, has tweeted a video of volunteers cooking food non-stop.

Some of that food is then being delivered underground to the boys and the rescuers.

Boys to be split into four groups – reports

The trapped boys will be divided into four groups, the Bangkok Post is quoting a source as saying.

It says the first group will have four people, with the second, third and fourth containing three people. The coach will be in the final group.

Jacob Goldberg, who is reporting for the Guardian, has interviewed Dr. Andrea Danese, a child psychiatrist at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, who has discussed the possible psychological consequences of the ordeal on the boys.

After a long time spent underground, the boys will be tired possibly mildly confused – almost as if they were jet-lagged – and likely quite emotional. Bringing them together with a parent will certainly be a positive experience. The mental health professionals could advise the parents on how to support their children in the aftermath of this scary experience.

The parents can help their children in many ways. They can comfort them emotionally by finding the right words to communicate that the threat is over, saying that is OK to feel strong emotions in the aftermath of scary experiences, suggesting ways of coping with those emotions, and importantly to bring back normality by using routines familiar to the boys.

Overall, this is clearly an unusual situation but we can think about the mental health of these boys based on work in traumatised young people more broadly. Many of the boys will have some emotional symptoms – they may be tearful, easily upset, and clingy. These symptoms will resolve within weeks in most of the boys.

A sizeable minority of the boys will develop psychiatric disorders, says Danese, who recommends the boys are carefully assessed and monitored for some time after they are freed.

A sizeable minority of them will develop psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or possible conduct problems and substance abuse. Therefore, the boys should be carefully assessed and monitored after being reunited with their families.

The assessment needs to be broad, considering all types of psychopathology rather than only focus on PTSD, should include a careful assessment of their risk for self-harm, and identify changes in functioning since the incident. Some children may have had pre-exising vulnerability to psychopathology, which should be considered in the assessment.

It is important that the boys who develop psychopathology receive evidence-based treatments personalised to their clinical presentation rather than general counselling advice related to copying with distress or interventions with poor evidence base.

Updated

It’s a “war against water”, according to Narongsak Osottanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province.

“It’s always been against time but that has become more and more critical over the past few days,” reports the BBC’s Sophie Long, holding an umbrella as monsoon rains pour down upon the area around the cave.

“The fear was that if they didn’t move now that the rain .. would gush down the mountain and refill the [cave] leaving the boys in an even worse situation than there were in, in the first place.”

Fresh oxygen canisters are being delivered to the mouth of the cave.

As the tragic death of “national hero” Saman Kunan proved this week, it is vital that there is the requisite oxygen to replenish everyone along the route out.

Rescue workers move air tanks at the Tham Luang cave area as operations continue.
Rescue workers move air tanks at the Tham Luang cave area as operations continue.
Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images

The Thai government has published a graphic detailing how each child will be rescued.

Two divers will accompany each boy, who will wear full face masks as they are guided through the passageways by rope.

When facing a particularly narrow path the divers will release the tank from their back and slowly roll it through as they guide the boy through. This means that the boys will never be alone, as had been previously feared.

They will then walk from chamber 3, which has been drained to the extent that it is possible to walk in it, to the mouth of the cave that they entered on June 23.

Heavy rain is pouring down around a mile from the cave.

Meanwhile, the operation to drain the cave of water – which has seen millions of gallons pumped out throughout the past week – continues apace.

A Thai version of the possible solution mooted by Elon Musk is being tested near the Tham Luang cave, according to the BBC’s Jonathan Head.

Earlier this week, Musk said that an inflatable tube with airlocks could serve as an effective escape pod.

The Thai Navy Seals have posted a photo to their Facebook page which demonstrates how local and international forces have united in the effort to free the trapped boys throughout the past fortnight.

“เรา”…ผนึกกำลังทั้งทีมไทยและทีมนานาชาติ นำน้องๆทีมหมูป่า…กลับบ้าน

This roughly translates to: “we”… the seal is both Thai team and international team leading the sisters of the boar team… go home.

Hooyah!

Updated

Officials are planning to send the boys to the Chiangrai Prachanukroh hospital, almost 60 miles from the cave, after they are freed.

A number of trolleys now sit by the main entrance in anticipation of their arrival.

Not all of the families approve that the rescue operation has been launched, it has been suggested.

When approached by a journalist who asked if all of the families have given their blessing, the governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osottanakorn, replied “No .. they know and the understand.”

Daniel Sutton, a senior Journalist with Network Ten Australia then asked, “Do they approve?” to which the governor reiterated “They know and they understand.”

Updated

Divers expected to be preparing the first boy for the journey out

It has been five hours since the team of divers went in to the cave complex and they are now expected to be “preparing the first and strongest of the team for the perilous underwater extraction”.

The Bangkok Post is quoting government sources who claim the Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-Ocha will fly to Chiang Rai tomorrow and arrive at the rescue site in the afternoon to oversee the rescue effort and to meet with the families of those trapped.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha speaks to family members of missing children and their coach.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha speaks to family members of missing children and their coach.
Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images

It is unknown how he will be received with the popularity of the Thai military junta, who staged a successful coup in 2014, at reportedly all time lows. Prayut visited the camp last week where he spoke to families.

The last Thai general election was held in February 2014, three months before the coup, and the government claim the next will be held “no later” than February 2019 – in what was the latest delay to anger critics of the government.

I’m Mattha Busby and I’ll be taking over from my colleague Kate Lyons as 18 divers make their way through the Tham Luang cave complex to rescue the 12 footballers and their coach who have been trapped for 15 days

Just to remind readers just waking up in the UK, officials have cleared the 1.5km section between the cave entrance and chamber three sufficiently that people can walk along it.

It is expected that the first boy will make it out by 3pm BST.

It’s been suggested this morning that the Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-Ocha will arrive tomorrow to oversee the rescue effort and to meet with the families of those trapped.

Meanwhile, camera crews are camping out in the bushes near the entrance to the rescue site. It could be a bit of a wait, and we’ll be bringing you updates all of the way.

Updated

While details of the rescue team are still murky, a key player in the team is Australian doctor and diverDr Richard Harris, an anaesthetist based in Adelaide.

The civilian diver was specifically asked to join the rescue mission by the British divers who found the boys on Monday night.

He has worked at South Australia’s emergency medical retrieval service (MedSTAR) as an aeromedical consultant and has previously worked with AusAID in Vanuatu providing anaesthesia and intensive care services.

In 2011 he was part of the team that worked to retrieve the body of his friend the diver Agnes Milowka from Tank Cave at Millicent.

He has also worked as an underwater cameraman on National Geographic documentaries and feature films.

On Saturday, Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop, tweeted that Australia was “sending a medical specialist with cave-diving experience to join the team of 17 [Australians] … helping Thai government rescue 12 boys and soccer coach”.

Updated

What we know so far

  • Thai authorities have confirmed that a rescue operation to retrieve 12 boys and their football coach from a cave in northern Thailand is under way.
  • At 10am local time 18 divers went into the cave to bring out the boys – including 13 international divers and five Thai navy Seals.
  • The former governor who is in charge of the rescue operation called the international divers “all-stars” and the Thai divers “five of our best”.
  • Water levels have dropped significantly since Saturday, and officials say that they are now at “peak readiness”.
  • Officials would not confirm if the boys would have to dive out of the caves,but said that water levels had dropped enough that much of the cave network was walkable.
  • It might take several days for all the boys and their coach to come out. The boys will be brought out one by one.
  • Officials said that they might stop and start the operation “depending on weather”.
  • The first rescued boy could come out at 9pm local time on Sunday.
  • The children are said to be in high spirits and “ready to go”. The families have been informed about the plan and have also agreed to it.
  • The boys were assessed by an Australian doctor who gave them the all-clear to make the journey.
  • Earlier today all media and non-rescue personnel were cleared from the cave site area.
  • The coordinator of the rescue efforts said rescuers were still in a “war with water and time” as monsoon rainclouds loomed over the north of the country early on Sunday.
  • The 12 boys and their football coach have been trapped inside the cave for 15 days, after they ventured into the caves on 23 June and got trapped by rising waters.
  • They were discovered by British divers on Monday night after a nine-day round-the-clock search involving teams from all over the world.

A reminder of some numbers:

The 12 boys and their football coach have now been trapped in the cave for 15 days, venturing in there on 23 June after football practice.

It has been more than five days since they were discovered by British divers on Monday night.

Officials have been working round-the-clock to pump water out of the cave complex and have cleared the 1.5km section between the cave entrance and chamber three sufficiently that people can walk along it.

It takes 11 hours for experienced adult divers to make a round trip from the entrance of the cave to where the boys are, and out again.

Eighteen divers – 13 international experts and five Thai navy Seals – set off this morning at 10am to begin the rescue mission. The boys will be brought out one-by-one and we are not expecting to see the first boy before 9pm today.

Our reporter, Jacob Goldberg, says that camera crews – barred from the cave site and forbidden from taking pictures of the rescue – are camping out near the entrance to the site, trying to get as close as they can to the cave’s entrance.

The divers set off at 10am local time. It is currently just after 1:30pm in Thailand. We have been told not to expect the first boy to emerge from the cave until 9pm, so as Jacob writes “it will be a long, wet wait”.

The Thai navy Seals have posted a photograph to Facebook about the rescue mission that five of their number have embarked on.

“We, the Thai navy Seals, along with the international diver team, are ready to bring the soccer team home!” they wrote in the caption of the post.

Five Thai divers, whom Narongsak Osatanakorn, the coordinator of the rescue mission, described as “some of our best” will join 13 expert international divers in a rescue mission to bring the 12 boys and their football coach out of the cave.

The mission could take days, with Narongsak saying the first boy could emerge at about 9pm local time – 11 hours after the mission commenced.

Thai navy Seals have been staying with the boys in the cave since they were found on Monday night and officials have spoken of the importance of having Thai-speaking divers, with whom the boys have formed a bond, as part of the rescue mission.

The Seals experienced a blow on Friday when one of their former members, Saman Kunan, who was volunteering in the rescue mission, died while returning from the cave where thee boys are trapped.

Veena Thoopkrajae who is on the ground working for the Guardian, reports that traffic around Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, which is where officials plan to send the boys when they get them out of the cave, has been closed.

The hospital is about 57 km from the cave.

Elon Musk has wished the “extremely talented dive team” luck on their mission, in a tweet that seems to indicate his involvement in the rescue efforts may have come to an end.

Earlier this week, the billionaire entrepreneur was approached to assist with the rescue mission.

Musk tweeted overnight that a team from his rocket company SpaceX in Los Angeles was building a mini-sub to help with the rescue, and that it would take eight hours to construct the mini-sub and 17 hours to transport it to Thailand.

However, after today’s news that the rescue mission had begun he tweeted: “Extremely talented dive team. Makes sense given monsoon. Godspeed.”

 

How the morning unfolded – in pictures

A Thai policeman stands guard at an entrance of the cave early in the morning.
A Thai policeman stands guard at an entrance of the cave early in the morning.
Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images
Ambulances arrive at the cave complex as media are moved out.
Ambulances arrive at the cave complex as media are moved out.
Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters
Journalists & non-essential personnel are ordered to leave the cave site and surrounding roads are cleared.
Journalists and non-essential personnel are ordered to leave the cave site and surrounding roads are cleared.
Photograph: Linh Pham/Getty Images
A journalist stacks up chairs up as she prepares to leave the site of Tham Luang cave complex
A journalist stacks up chairs up as she prepares to leave the site of Tham Luang cave complex
Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Australian military personnel outside the cave.
Australian military personnel outside the cave. 13 of the rescue divers are international expert cave-divers.
Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters
Rescue workers are seen near the cave complex
Rescue workers are seen near the cave complex.
Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters
A US military personnel carries an oxygen cylinder at the Tham Luang cave complex
A US military personnel carries an air tank at the Tham Luang cave complex
Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters
Rescue workers move air tanks at the Tham Luang cave area ahead of the rescue efforts.
Rescue workers move air tanks at the Tham Luang cave area ahead of the rescue efforts.
Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue workers arrive at the Tham Luang cave complex ahead of the mission to free the boys and their coach from the cave.
Rescue workers arrive at the Tham Luang cave complex ahead of the mission to free the boys and their coach from the cave.
Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Thai Police stand in front of the hospital in Chiang Rai.
Thai Police stand in front of the hospital in Chiang Rai.
Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

We understand that the Australian doctor who gave the boys the final approval for the operation is a civilian who has extensive cave-diving experience and was specifically requested by British divers involved in the operation.

He is now part of the rescue mission – though we are unclear if he is one of the 18 divers inside. Authorities say they are not approved to release his name and can’t ask his permission because he’s currently involved in the mission.

What we know so far

  • Thai authorities have confirmed that a rescue operation is under way.
  • At 10am local time they sent 18 divers into the cave to bring out the boys – including 13 international divers and five Thai navy Seals. The former governor in charge of the rescue operation called the international divers “all-stars” and the Thai divers “five of our best”.
  • Water levels have dropped significantly since Saturday, and officials say that they are now at “peak readiness”.
  • Officials would not confirm if the boys would have to dive out of the caves, but said that water levels had dropped enough that much of the cave network was walkable.
  • It might take up to two days for all the boys and their coach to come out. The boys will be brought out one by one.
  • Officials said that they might stop and start the operation “depending on weather”.
  • The first rescued boys could come at 9pm local time on Sunday.
  • The children are said to be in high spirits and “ready to go”. The families have been informed about the plan and have also agreed.
  • Earlier today all media and non-rescue personnel were cleared from the cave site area.
  • The coordinator of the rescue efforts said rescuers were still in a “war with water and time” as monsoon rainclouds loomed over the north of the country early on Sunday.
  • The 12 boys and their football coach have been trapped inside the cave for 15 days now, after they ventured into the caves on 23 June and got trapped by rising waters.
  • They were discovered by British divers on Monday night after a nine-day round-the-clock search involving teams from all over the world.

Updated

Narongsak Osatanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province, has said the boys are “very determined” and ready to come out.

“The kids are very determined and they are of high-spirit. All 13 have been informed about the operation and they are ready to come out. They firmly decide to come out with us.”

The childrens’ families also support the mission, he said.

The governor said the medical team had been rehearsing for the past four days.

“Any bit of confusion is not allowed. We practiced the whole day yesterday. I assure you that we are very ready in this mission.”

Earlier in the week, our correspondents in Thailand wrote a piece about the boys from the Wild Boars football team who are trapped inside the cave. The team includes Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, 11, the youngest in the squad, and left-winger Adul Sam-on, 14, whose English skills have earned him admiration at home.

You can read the full report here:

‘Today is D-Day’

As he announced the launch of a rescue mission to free the children, the governor said:

Today we are most ready. Today is D-Day. Today at 10am, 13 foreign divers went in to extract the children, along with five [Thai] navy Seals.

As we look at the weather forecast, a storm is coming and torrential rain is expected, then our 100% readiness will decrease and we will have to pump the water out again,” he said.

As for the kid factor, the kids are very determined and they are of high spirit. All 13 kids have been informed about the operation and they are ready to come out. They firmly decided to come out with us.

The families of the kids have been informed and they agree with us.

We’ve rehearsed [the medical preparations] for the past three to four days. We even practiced with a real kid – practicing the position of O2 tank and the marking … I assure you that we are very ready in this mission.

I ask you all to patiently wait for news and send support and wish them success.”

Our full story on today’s dramatic events and the rescue mission currently under way is here.

Updated

Officials have not confirmed whether the boys would need to dive during the mission, but have suggested that much of the route can be walked.

“Although there are some slightly difficult parts that we have to bend or crawl [in] we can say that we can just walk through,” Narongsak Osatanakorn, former governor of Chiang Rai province, who is heading up the rescue operation said of conditions in the cave.

“We have done extremely well as yesterday we were able to reduce the water level by 30cm, the record of what we’ve achieved.”

However, the governor was asked directly if the boys would need to dive and declined to answer, saying only that most of the path would be walkable.

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The governor said that preparations, which have been ongoing for most of the last week, stepped up last night as conditions improved.

“At 9pm last night we started clearing many things because we have reached the peak point of readiness,” he said.

“The meaning of readiness is … perfect weather, water [levels] and the kids’ readiness, physical and mental,” he said.

Updated

Rescue mission could take days, says governor

“There is no time limit for the operation,” the governor said.

“It depends on the weather, it depends on the water levels. If something changes we’ll stop. But I expect the operation to finish within the next couple of days.”

Michael Safi was at the press conference that has just concluded and has this full report about what was said there.

Eighteen divers have entered a northern Thailand cave on Sunday morning to retrieve 12 boys and their football coach who have been stranded in a cave for more than two weeks.

The rescue operation commenced around 10am local time and the soonest any boy will be freed is 9pm, said Narongsak Osatanakorn, former governor of Chiang Rai province, who is heading up the rescue operation.

They will be removed one-by-one and the operation could continue until at least tomorrow.

The team includes 13 international divers and five Thai navy Seals. “We can say they are all international all stars involved in this diving operation and we selected five of our best who can work with them,” Osatanakorn said.

The boys and their families had been informed. “Their health and their minds are ready and they all have knowledge of the mission,” he said. “They’re ready to go out.”

He said the 1.5km path from the cave entrance to the “third chamber” that has been a staging ground for the operation was not completely dry but mostly walkable. “Yesterday the water levels were the lowest they had been,” Osatanakorn said.

He would not say whether the boys would need to dive at all in the 1.7km journey from where they are sheltering to the third chamber.

The press conference has now finished.

The operation could take three to four days, said an army spokesperson and the mission “depends on the weather”.

Despite this, the governor reported that all of the 12 boys and their coach are “very ready” to come out.

The governor will not confirm if the boys have to dive out of the caves, which has been a point of concern in the planning of the rescue.

The governor just said that today is the best day to attempt the journey “because most of the path is walkable”.

“International all-stars” and Thailand’s best selected for mission

The governor has said that the 13 international divers who will go in to the cave to rescue the boys are “all stars.”

“And we selected five of our best who can work with them,” he said.

It was previously reported that having Thai-speaking divers whom the boys have a bond with was going to be key to the rescue operation.

An Australian doctor assessed the boys last night and gave them the all-clear, said the governor. Once they are out of the cave they will choose the most suitable way to move them and have helicopters on standby in case they are needed.

A spokesman is speaking now and said they had been aided by lower-than-expected rainfall.

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The governor said the earliest the boys would come out was 9pm tonight, due to the long journey from where they are located and the entrance, and they cannot guarantee the mission will be completed today, because the boys will all come out gradually.

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Rescue mission is under way, governor confirms

The rescue mission has begun, the governor has confirmed at a press conference this morning.

18 divers have been sent into the caves to retrieve the 12 boys and their football coach. The 13 people inside the cave have been informed and are ready and their families have been informed.

Medical teams have been rehearsing for three days and are ready to treat the group when they emerge.

Updated

The governor said that the factors affecting the readiness for any rescue attempt are the weather, the water, and the readiness of the team the condition of the boys.

“Today is the peak of our readiness,” said Narongsak.

It is possible for divers to advance to the third chamber on foot. It’s not dry but it’s the lowest the water level has been, said the governor.

Divers have entered the cave

At 10am, 18 divers entered the cave – 13 international divers and five Thai divers.

“Today is the peak of our readiness,” said Narongsak Osottanakorn, a former provincial governor who is leading the rescue efforts.

The official also said that no shafts found by search teams in the jungle have potential, ruling out drilling as a possible way to rescue the boys.

“I can confirm we will wait until we are 100% ready until we start the action,” said the official.

The press conference has begun and officials have thanked the media for their cooperation, saying they need space to work.

“We will still maintain our planned mission and the two main obstacles are time and water,” the spokesperson said.

Michael Safi and Veena Thoopkrajae are standing by for the press conference, waiting to hear what officials have to say about this morning’s dramatic events.

In case you haven’t seen it, the boys and their parents, who have been unable to communicate for more than two weeks, have exchanged letters with one another, carried by navy divers.

“To all the kids,” one letter, written by the mother of Nattawut Takamsai, 14, said. “We are not mad at you at all. Do take good care of yourself. Don’t forget to cover yourself with blankets as the weather is cold. We’re worried. You will come out soon.”

She wrote to Ekkapol Chantawong, the coach: “We want you to know that no parents are angry with you at all, so don’t you worry about that.”

In their notes the children have said they want to go home as soon as they are out of the cave, that they are strong and not to worry about them. Many also placed requests for their favourite meals when they get out of the cave.

One boy told his parents: “Don’t worry, I’m fine. Please tell Yod to take me out to a fried chicken shop.”

Our stories on those letters are here and here:

Updated

For our full guide to where the boys are and how they might be rescued, click here.

A reminder of where the boys are and the difficulty of the rescue mission.

Though rescuers have been able to clear a huge amount of water out of the cave system, meaning it is possible to wade through the first 1.5km of the cave, parts of the journey are still treacherous and it is an 11-hour round trip for experienced adult divers.

Cave levels
Aerial map of caves

On Saturday another 10 members of the rescue mission – part of a team assigned to explore the mountain to look for chimneys that might lead to the cave – were injured when a car they were travelling in fell off a cliff.

AFP reports their injuries were not believed to be serious, though blogger Richard Barrow, who is in Thailand, wrote one person was believed to be “badly injured”.

There are obviously serious concerns for the safety of all rescuers, especially in light of the tragic death of Saman Kunan, the former Thai navy Seal diver, on Friday.

Jacob Goldberg, one of our reporters on the ground, reports that officials are now clearing the roads into the cave site, including towing away parked cars.

A Bangkok Post reporter has said on Twitter that the first stage of the operation will be to recover four boys.

“Sending support and prayers to the Seal unit and the first four kids to come out safe,” Wassana Nanuam wrote on Twitter.

The Guardian has not been able to confirm this and officials have not confirmed details of the operation.

Updated

There is speculation that the order for journalists and non-essential personnel to leave the site came as officials became increasingly irritated by the growing media presence at the site. Hundreds of reporters have arrived at the cave site over the last week.

The press conference, which was due to start half an hour ago, has not yet begun. We’ll have updates from that as soon as it does.

Our south Asia correspondent Michael Safi has learned that divers are at the site and the rescue operation will begin soon, but it hasn’t commenced yet and divers are yet to go into the caves.

The press conference is due to start in about five minutes, we will let you know when that has begun and as soon as we have any news from it.

Updated

What we know so far

  • Thai authorities have announced that the evacuation of the area has occurred so that a “rescue operation” can take place.
  • Media and others not involved in the rescue operation have been asked to leave the cave site area.
  • Officials also announced that during the operation no one is allowed to take photos and if any unsuitable photos come out the person will be held responsible.
  • Divers and medics have been arriving at the site all morning and there are signs that a mission could begin imminently, with ambulances gathering at the site and the relatives’ room deserted.
  • Rain fell early on Sunday, which may have inspired the action at the site.
  • The coordinator of the rescue efforts said rescuers were still in a “war with water and time” as monsoon rainclouds loomed over the north of the country early on Sunday.
  • The 12 boys and their football coach have been trapped inside the cave for 15 days now, after they ventured into the caves on 23 June and got trapped by rising waters.
  • They were discovered by British divers on Monday night after a nine-day round-the-clock search involving teams from all over the world.

Updated

Veena Thoopkrajae and Michael Safi have left the cave site as instructed by Thai officials and are on their way to a press conference where we hope they will be given an update from officials about today’s activities at the site.

Veena has this video from the site as they drove out.

“We are still at war with water and time,” Narongsak Osottanakorn, a former provincial governor leading the rescue efforts has said.

He told reporters yesterday that the “ideal time” for a rescue could come in the next two or three days, though he has repeatedly warned that the arrival of heavy monsoon rains, which have been due to arrive all week, could push them to begin the rescue mission early.

More on the involvement of Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur, who was approached to assist with the rescue mission.

Musk tweeted overnight that a team from his rocket company SpaceX in Los Angeles is building a mini-sub to help with the rescue.

“Got more great feedback from Thailand. Primary path is basically a tiny, kid-size submarine … Light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps. Extremely robust,” Musk tweeted.

This is actually surprisingly similar to the rescue ideas that people from around the world have been emailing in to me and my colleague Michael Safi all week.

Musk said his mini-sub would take eight hours to construct and 17 hours to transport to Thailand. It is unclear whether Musk’s device will be used in the rescue operation that seems to be imminent at the cave, but given the time frame, it seems unlikely.

The Thai defence ministry said a team from a Musk firm with drilling and exploration know-how should reach the cave on Sunday.

Updated

Jacob Goldberg, who is still inside the cave rescue site, has this footage of divers arriving at the cave site, to be mobbed by reporters.

Reporters and all those not directly involved in the rescue operation have been banned from entering the site, and those already inside have been give until 9am to clear out.

Army medics have arrived at the site, reports Michael Safi.

Cave site evacuated ‘for rescue operation’

Thai authorities have announced that the evacuation of the area has occurred so that a “rescue operation” can take place.

“Assessing the situation now, it is necessary to evacuate the area for the rescue operation,” said Mae Sai police commander Komsan Sa-ardluan over a loudspeaker. “Those unrelated to the rescue operation, please evacuate the area immediately.”

The announcement came as dark monsoon rainclouds loomed over the mountainous north of the country early on Sunday, potentially heightening risks at the cave where rescuers were still waging a “war with water and time” to save 12 trapped boys and their assistant coach.

Officials also announced that during the operation no one is allowed to take photos and if any unsuitable photos come out the person will be held responsible.

Updated

Jacob Goldberg reports that American divers have arrived at the cave site.

Around 9pm last heavy thunder and lightning gave way to torrential rain in Mae Sai, the rain eventually reached the cave site. Soon after, reports starting coming in that there was increased activity at the cave site.

All week we’ve been told that rain might force rescuers to start evacuating the boys. The signs this morning suggest we may finally have reached that point.

Ten ambulances are gathered inside the rescue camp, reports Jacob Goldberg who is inside the rescue camp at the moment.

He says that all media and their vehicles have been ordered to leave the camp by 9am, which is in an hour and 14 minutes.

Ambulances inside the cave rescue compound
Ambulances inside the cave rescue compound
Photograph: Jacob Goldberg

In what looks like another sign that something might be happening, Jacob Goldberg reports that the relatives’ room at the cave site is empty.

It’s a chaotic scene inside the camp this morning with Thai authorities working to clear the site of journalists amid rumours an evacuation is being mounted. Media have been asked to assemble at a police office nearby.

The Guardian has reached the cave site where green netting has been placed around entrance to the cave obscuring our view of what’s going on around it.

We don’t know how long we’ll be able to remain inside but it’s clear something is happening this morning.

Jacob Goldberg, who is reporting in Thailand for the Guardian, has this picture of the road heading into the cave entrance from this morning.

The road to the Tham Luang caves was blocked by police this morning to media
The road to the Tham Luang caves was blocked by police this morning to media
Photograph: Jacob Goldberg

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the rescue efforts to free the trapped football team and their coach from the Tham Luang caves in northern Thailand.

This is the sixth day since the boys were found in a cave and it is now 15 days since they became trapped after entering the caves after football practice on 23 June.

Since they were found on Monday night, officials have been trying to find a safe way to bring the boys, who are trapped 5km into the caves, out to safety. Tragically, one of the divers involved in the mission died on Friday.

Officials have been scrambling to work out the safest way to bring the boys out of the caves safely and have done so with the prospect of monsoon rains hanging over them.

My colleague Michael Safi is at the cave and will be filing reports as they come in, you can follow him on Twitter here. You can follow me on Twitter here and email me on kate.lyons@theguardian.com with any questions or tips.

Media has been barred from cave site

The large number of journalists who have been waiting at the entrance to the cave for any news of the rescue of the trapped boys and their coach, have been been barred from the site.

Earlier this morning, media arriving at the caves were being turned away, though media who had been camping out there overnight were told they were allowed to stay. Not long afterwards, even those journalists already in the cave site were told to leave.

Media are being directed to a district office. There is speculation that moving out the media is a precursor to the rescue operation beginning, but the Guardian has no confirmation that a rescue will be attempted.

The Guardian’s south Asia correspondent Michael Safi is on the ground in Thailand and says this is the most significant thing to happen since the boys were found and there is a sense that something is about to happen.

“If it’s not the rescue it’s something equally momentous,” he said.

Updated

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Thailand cave rescue: navy Seals confirm four boys have been rescued – live - NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).