CHIANG RAI: Thai authorities wrapped up the first leg of their operation to rescue 12 boys and their football coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave complex, declaring their mission "more successful than (they had) hoped for."
The rescue operation chief declared Sunday (Jul 8) "D-day", saying the boys' condition and other considerations such as water levels and the weather meant they were prepared for extraction.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
- Four boys have made the hazardous journey out, and are receiving medical treatment.
- The operation is currently on hold as all the oxygen tanks in the cave have been used up and need replacing.
- Eight more boys and their coach are still in the cave complex.
- The boys were each accompanied by two divers as they made their way through pitch darkness, diving through narrow passageways swirling with cold, strong currents.
- The operation is due to resume on Monday.
10:46PM: It's raining - pouring, in fact, at Tham Luang cave complex now, and rescuers will be hoping that the overnight downpour will not hamper the evacuation of the remaining nine.
10:22PM: The Thai Navy SEALs posted on Facebook: "Tonight, we can all sleep well. Good night!"
10:18PM: RECAP: The first boy evacuated the cave at 5.40pm (local time) followed by the second boy 10 minutes later.
The third boy exited the cave at 7.40pm, and the fourth boy at 7.50pm.
No word though, on which boys have been rescued.
10:09PM: The boys were wearing full-faced masks while hanging on to the bodies of rescue divers: Mission chief Narongsak.
10:08PM: The rescue operation held today was very smooth, says the rescue mission chief at the press conference. Boys were selected to come out of the cave based on their health assessment.
9:58PM: JUST IN: Rescue workers will need "about 10 hours" to prepare for the next operation, says the rescue mission chief.
9:56PM: The first boy exited Tham Luang cave at 5.40pm (local time), says the rescue mission chief. A total of 90 divers - 50 foreign and 40 Thai locals - were involved in the operation to remove the boys from the cave.
9:55PM: Rescue operations have to stop for now because all the oxygen tanks along the evacuation route have been used up, says the rescue mission chief.
Nine people still remain trapped in the cave.
9:42PM: Our mission is more successful than we've hoped for, says the mission chief.
9:52PM: "After 16 days of waiting, we get to see the faces of the 'Wild Boars'", says Tham Luang rescue mission chief at a press conference. He confirms that four boys are now in hospital in Chiang Rai's city centre.
9:40PM: Channel NewsAsia's Saksith Saiyasombut gives a recap of what has happened since the divers began the rescue operation at 10am (local time):
9:32PM: The rescue operation center will be holding a press conference in half an hour, at 9pm (local time).
9:29PM: A helicopter is seen landing at a military airport in Chiang Rai with its passengers taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
9:23PM: Earlier, rescue workers were seen moving air tanks at the Tham Luang cave area.
9:13PM: An ambulance leaves Chiang Rai's military airport after transporting passengers from a helicopter.
9:04PM: An ambulance is seen driving towards Chiang Rai's city centre.
8:50PM: JUST IN: A total of six boys have exited Tham Luang cave, says a senior member of the rescue medical team.
8:48PM: BREAKING: Three boys have been evacuated from the Tham Luang cave complex, confirms the Thai Navy.
8:42PM: "Two are out of the cave. Two more are likely to follow shortly," Lieutenant-General Kongcheep Tantrawanit said.
8:23PM: Four boys have reached the rescue base camp set up inside the cave complex and are expected to walk out soon, AFP reports, citing Thailand's defence ministry spokesperson.
8:14PM: A helicopter is seen flying from Tham Luang cave complex area towards Chiang Rai's city centre.
8:10PM: An ambulance, believed to be transporting one of the first kids, leaves the Tham Luang cave area.
8:01PM: "Two kids are out. They are currently at the field hospital near the cave," confirmed 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.
7:49PM: BREAKING: First two members of Thai football team recovered from cave, says local official.
7:26PM: An update on the boys' arrival is expected after 9pm (local time), according to our correspondent on the ground.
7:19PM: "Thank you for looking after our children. Coach, you’ve gone in there with them. Come out with them too and do it safely.” Parents of the boys wrote to football coach Ake yesterday, telling him not to "blame yourself".
7.00PM: These were some of the options that rescuers mulled over to extract the 12 boys and their coach.
6.57PM: Helicopters standing by to lift the boys to the nearest hospital, which is almost 100km away.
6.47PM: The trapped boys will be divided into four groups, according to the Bangkok Post.
Four boys are in the first group, with the rest split into groups of three. The coach will be in the last group.
6.30PM: Divers are believed to have reached the trapped kids about an hour ago and they should be on their way out.
6.11PM: Thai authorities have begun the operation to evacuate the boys and their coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave complex, where they have been trapped for more than two weeks.
The group was found alive after a gruelling search by divers, who are now working to take them home.
Click here for a timeline of the efforts to find and free the group.
6.06PM: Extraction is under way.
6.05PM: A look at where the boys and their football coach are trapped - and some of the narrow spaces that they will have to make their way through to get out.
1.39PM: A reminder of the staggering scale of the operation: Thousands have been mobilised - the Thai navy, military, diving and cave and mining experts from all over the world, volunteers from every corner of Thailand.
The biggest threat to the rescue operation has been thunderstorms forecast that could raise the water levels inside the cave. Millions of gallons of water have been pumped out to make the dive in Tham Luang less treacherous. Already, one diver has lost his life after delivering oxygen supply to the trapped boys.
1.22PM: The 12 boys - aged between 11 and 16 - and their 25-year-old football coach were discovered about 4km inside the cave late Jul 2 by British cave divers but they have had to stay put due to the cave being flooded.
Here's a recap on the challenges rescuers face:
One of the crevices that divers have to go through to reach the boys is just 72cm by 38cm wide and there is almost zero visibility in the muddy water.
WATCH our explainer on conditions inside the cave:
1.18PM: The operation to evacuate the 13 people trapped in the Tham Luang cave complex for 16 days and counting started this morning, the rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn announced just past 10.30am local time.
Five Thai Navy SEALs and 13 foreign divers entered the cave at 10am.
A looming thunderstorm may have forced their hand, but Narongsak says the 13 survivors are "more than ready, physically and mentally".
READ MORE | Full coverage of the search and rescue operation: