Authorities undertook the risky mission to rescue 12 Thai schoolboys and their soccer coach trapped inside a flooded cave on Sunday and authorities said the entire task may take three-four days to complete.
The first two boys emerged about nightfall from the Tham Luang cave complex after navigating a treacherous escape route of more than four kilometres (2.5 miles) through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways.
The rescued boys have been taken to a hospital by ambulances for medical treatment.
The four young soccer players rescued from a Thai cave Sunday included the team's goalie and a boy who didn't even play with them but joined the group that day to be with his pal. A defence ministry official earlier told AFP six boys had "come out". A former Thai navy SEAL passed out making the dive Friday and died.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the military junta that seized power in 2014, planned to visit the cave site today, a government spokesman said.
"Today is D-Day", Narongsak had earlier told reporters. The boys are between 11 and 16 years old. It was the rain that stranded the boys and their coach inside the caves to begin with, after they left their bicycles and ventured into the cave network late last month.
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. They will be accompanied by an "all-star" team of 13 worldwide and five Thai divers, officials said.
On Sunday four members of the "Wild Boar" team were successfully brought out from the cave, after authorities decided they had to rush ahead with a rescue operation to beat monsoon rains.
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A frantic rescue mission was hatched in the week since they were found.
Soldiers carry a pump to help drain the rising floodwater in a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, July 6, 2018.
"We have reached peak readiness", the governor said.
The quick extraction came as a surprise after one of the operation commanders said on Sunday morning the rescue efforts could take several days to complete. He found kindred spirits in the boys, many of whom had grown up poor or were stateless ethnic minorities, common in this border area between Myanmar and Thailand. "Finding the boys doesn't mean we've finished our mission".
Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that engineers from two of his companies, the aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and the tunnel-construction company Boring Company, were headed to Thailand to lend their assistance.
Rescuers have been working to lower the water level in the cave to prepare for an hours-long mission to retrieve the boys, ages 11 to 16, most of whom can't swim. It was not immediately known if a USA diver was among them.
"Don't be anxious, I miss everyone". With love." "Don't be anxious, I miss everyone.