The dangerous operation of rescuing the 13 people trapped in a cave in northern Thailand is well underway, and four boys were already extracted to safety. With eight more boys waiting to be freed along with their coach, rescuers took a brief break to replace the crucial air tanks, along with gear.
The mission to free the stranded soccer team is otherwise proceeding "smoothly," according to the head of the operation. Four of the boys, who were found to be alive and well in a miraculous discovery a full nine days since they have been reported missing, have been delivered from below ground and looked to be in good health, according to the rescuers via BBC.
It has been a perilous trip for each of the boys as divers guided them back to the opening through pitch-black darkness and flooded passages of the dangerous Tham Luang cave system. The boys have proved to be resilient, though, with the group reportedly able to make the last leg of their journey on foot.
The boys were given full-face masks, which are considered easier for first-time divers compared to the mouthpiece respirators used by the professionals. These are then linked to an air bottle carried by another guide, so they are free from the weight as they swim under the flooded parts of the cave.
This arrangement proved vital in a section called "T-junction," a particularly narrow underwater segment so tight that the divers have to take off their air tanks to slip through.
The rescue is now a race against time, with the boys and their coach getting weaker by the day. the first four rescued were the strongest of the team, selected to make the first attempt with their rescue plan.
"If we wait and the rain comes in the next few days we will be tired again from pumping and our readiness would drop," Narongsak Osottanakorn, former Chaing Rai governor and the person overseeing the rescue operation, said, as quoted by the Telegraph.
At least two of the rescued boys have been airlifted to a nearby hospital as medical staff check for hypothermia and any lingering lung infections.