MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — A Thai governor says the operation to bring out 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach from deep inside a cave where they have been trapped for two weeks has begun.
The acting Chiang Rai governor has told reporters "today is D-Day" with 13 foreigner and five Thai divers taking part in the rescue.
He says the divers went in at 10 a.m. and the boys will gradually come out accompanied by two divers each. He says the earliest they will come out is 9 p.m. Saturday (10 a.m. ET). The only way to bring them out is by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygen-depleted air.
Experienced cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving, as the boys are. The path out is considered especially complicated because of twists and turns in narrow flooded passages.
But the governor supervising the mission said earlier that mild weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation that won't last if it rains again.___8:30 a.m.
Thai authorities have asked media to leave the area around the entrance of the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks, fueling speculation that a rescue mission could be imminent. Dozens of divers have arrived at the cave on Sunday morning.
Thai officials said Saturday they are worried that heavy monsoon rain could soon make the job even more difficult 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.
The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old became stranded when they went exploring in the cave after a practice game. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days.