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Date TimeJuly 08, 2018
VoiceMAE SAI, Thailand — The world exhaled a collective sigh of relief Sunday after the perilous rescue of four young soccer players trapped in a vast, winding and partially flooded cave, an international effort that has fueled an emotional response around the globe.
4 are out; 9 to go: Captivated world watches Thailand cave rescue
But the story — one of courage, danger and resilience — is far from over.
Eight boys, ages 11-17, and their 25-year-old coach remain in the treacherous labyrinth more than two miles into the Earth. Unrelenting rains are adding to the arduous task facing Thai officials since the team became trapped more than two weeks ago.
Storms were expected to continue at least through Monday as Thailand’s monsoon season gains traction.
Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osottanakorn said further rescues would be put on hold for 10-20 hours to allow the dive teams to rest and to restock the massive Tham Luang cave complex with oxygen and other equipment needed for the hazardous exit. And he did not reveal the condition of the four members of the Wild Boars.
Narongsak, however, was upbeat.
"After 16 days of waiting, we get to see the faces of the Wild Boars,” he said to applause at the site in Thailand's northern Chiang Rai province. “It’s more successful than I expected, and everyone’s happy."
That applause reverberated around the world, and social media have been awash in commentary on the heroic effort to save the kids.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who had offered to build a small submarine to aid the effort, tweeted: "Continue to be amazed by the bravery, resilience & tenacity of kids & diving team in Thailand. Human character at its best."
Narongsak thanked the team of 90 rescue workers, more than half of them from nations around the world. The boys were found Monday by a British diving pair who, when told by the boys that all were alive, reacted with a typically British "Brilliant!"
British media have closely followed the events, and websites there led with the story. It was also the most-read story on France's Le Monde and made the front of China's state-run Xinhua news website.
Nagonsak had estimated that the precarious journey out could take 10-12 hours for each boy, and that extracting everyone could take days. A SEAL involved in preparations for the rescue passed out and died Friday, a sobering reminder of the mission's dangers.
Most of the boys can't swim, and two divers escorted each boy through the cave. The first boy emerged at 5:40 p.m. local time on Sunday, or 6:40 a.m. ET, less than eight hours after the rescue operation started. The other three boys came out of the cave over the next two hours.
"We were faster than we expected," the governor said.
Those judged to be in the best condition were being extracted first, officials have said. The kids were placed in ambulances and given medical assessments before being shuttled, some via helicopters, to Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, more than 30 miles away.
"We can have good dreams tonight," the Thai navy SEALs wrote in a post on Facebook.
The boys and their coach hiked more than two miles into the cave complex after a soccer practice on June 23. Heavy rains flooded some of the narrow tunnels, blocking their exit.
Water levels inside the cave dropped by about a foot on Saturday and were at their lowest levels since the team became trapped. Rescuers are able to walk deep into the cave, all the way to the “third chamber,” about a mile from where the boys are located.
An Australian doctor with cave diving experience examined the boys on Sunday and declared them fit for the operation, authorities said.
“Today is D-Day,” Narongsak said as the effort began. “The boys are healthy, aware and ready to come out," he said.
Narongsak said that there was no time limit on the rescue and that its progress would depend on weather and conditions inside the cave, but it is expected to last through Monday.
“If something changes, we’ll stop,” he said. “But I expect the operation to finish within the next couple of days.
4 are out; 9 to go: Captivated world watches Thailand cave rescue
Early Sunday morning, all media and non-essential staff were cleared from the cave site as divers, medics and military began moving into place. Dark clouds and fog shrouded the area around the cave as a steady rain began falling in the early afternoon.
The boys sounded calm and reassuring in handwritten notes to their families that were transported by divers and made public Saturday.
One of the boys, identified as Tun, wrote: “Mom and Dad, please don’t worry, I am fine. I’ve told Yod to get ready to take me out for fried chicken. With love.”
Residents of the nearby town of Mae Sai, located directly on the border with Myanmar around seven miles away from the cave entrance, have been following the saga of the boys’ disappearance and rescue efforts intently.
“We are talking about it all the time,” said Napattra Chokumpompan, 21, who works at a hotel in Mae Si.
“I watch the news on my phone, my mom is watching on TV,” said Chokumpompan, who graduated from the same school that six of the boys currently attend, Mae Si Prasitsart School. “They are all of our students, all of our friends, all of our children."
4 are out; 9 to go: Captivated world watches Thailand cave rescue

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