'Now or never': The Thai cave rescue mission to save the trapped boys has begun

International rescuers team prepare to enter the cave where a young soccer team and their coach trapped by flood waters Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Th
(Image credit: Sakchai Lalit/The Associated Press)

An elite team of divers and Thai Navy SEALs began the rescue operation to extract the Thai youth soccer team and their coach trapped in a cave for 15 days at 10 a.m. local time on Sunday. At 9:30 p.m. local time, CNN reported four of the 12 boys were successfully removed from the cave and taken to the hospital. Rescue work is expected to resume in about 10 hours.

The boys were stuck in the cave when monsoon rains struck unseasonally early, and more rain is predicted to arrive in coming days, giving rescuers a narrow "now or never" window to act. The rescue plan is a "buddy dive" system in which each boy will be accompanied out by two expert divers who can carry the oxygen supply. A one-way trip takes about six hours, so the full operation will take several days.

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"We have two obstacles: water and time. This what we have been racing against since day one. We have to do all we can, even though it is hard to fight the force of nature," said Narongsak Osotthanakorn, governor of the nearby city of Chiang Rai. "All we need is a suitable time window when all conditions are right to carry out the operation, we have been waiting for this right moment." Osotthanakorn said the boys are fit and ready for the challenge, and their parents have approved the plan.

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