Rescuers pulled out four of the 13 members of the Thai soccer team on Sunday night, over two weeks since they were trapped inside the Tham Luang cave due to monsoon flooding.
Chiang Rai governor and operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn confirmed at a press conference Sunday that he had met the boys and they were in “perfect” health. He added that the rescue mission today was the “best situation.”
The rescued boys were taken to the nearby city of Chiang Rai for hospital treatment.
“Our job is not completely done,” Osottanakorn said. “We will have to do the next mission as successfully as the one we did today. The rest of the kids are in the same spot.”
Here’s how the rescue mission played out in photos:
Authorities began rehearsing the rescue for several days before they decided it was safe to extract the boys.
Rescuers worked for several days to clear out much of the flooding inside the cave’s chamber so the boys would be able to walk out of certain portions of the cave.
Divers also had to teach the boys not only to dive, but also to swim.
The boys wandered into the cave after soccer practice on June 23, where they were trapped by floodwaters.
Equipment was prepared in order to ensure a safe rescue.
Divers installed oxygen tanks and a guide rope through the cave’s tunnel network after oxygen levels dropped from 21% to 15% on Friday.
A Thai Navy SEAL commander told reporters Friday he believed there was “a limited amount of time” left to rescue the soccer team.
As oxygen levels dropped, rescue efforts saw some setbacks.
Former Thai Navy SEAL diver Saman Kunan, 38, died on Thursday while he was installing oxygen tanks along the pathway from lack of oxygen.
Members of the armed forces saluted Kunan on Friday as his body was flown back to his hometown.
Every now and then, we see a real hero. This is the last photo taken of Sgt. Saman Kunan before he lost his life on Thursday while returning from delivering oxygen to the boys trapped in the cave. He retired from the Thai Navy, but volunteered to help. pic.twitter.com/xDo27DmJRY
— Trevor Donovan (@TrevDon) July 8, 2018
Chiang Rai governor and operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn gave daily briefings to the press.
On Saturday, Osottanakorn said that mild weather and falling water levels created the “perfect” conditions to free the boys.
He added that the conditions won’t last if they were hit with heavy rainfall.
An Australian doctor checked the health of the boys on Saturday night and deemed the boys healthy enough for the rescue mission to proceed.
While officials were weighing up rescue options, experienced cave divers noted how difficult the dive in Thang Luam Cave is.
The boys had no experience in diving or swimming, and they had mostly been without food and medicine for two weeks in tight quarters where oxygen is limited.
Media were cleared out on Sunday morning.
Journalists & non-essential personnel were ordered to leave the cave site and surrounding roads as the teams began their rescue mission.
Officials have taken major steps to protect the boys’ privacy.
New video out from Thai authorities shows teams loading one of the rescued boys into an ambulance outside the cave. They protect his privacy by not showing the boy at any point in the video. He and three of his teammates are now in the hospital. #ThaiCaveRescue pic.twitter.com/lUVhZm8nTf
— Matt Rivers (@MattRiversCNN) July 8, 2018
The area outside the Chiang Rai hospital was cordoned off by police, and nearby street vendors were told by loud speaker to “keep off the road” and to “not obstruct the transfer mission.”
The first two boys reportedly emerged from the caves at 5:40 p.m. local time.
13 divers, mainly from Europe, escorted the boys through a 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) journey through the cave’s chambers.
The remainder of the team were positioned along the dangerous first kilometer stretch, where the boys had to navigate through submerged passageways in some places no more than two feet (0.6 meter) wide.
Reports indicated that the first boys out of the cave were the weakest ones.
For the first four rescues, two divers accompanied each boy, one from the side and one from behind and guided by a 3 mile (4.8 kilometer) rope.
Divers hugged the boys close to their bodies, and each had to wear an oxygen mask to enable normal breathing, authorities said.
About 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) of the journey was underwater, while officials successfully cleared out a portion of the water from other areas.
The next two boys emerged from the cave at around 7:40 p.m. local time.
The boys had to navigate through flooded passages that are no more than two feet (0.6 meters) wide in some areas.
According to the Thai government, when they reached a spot that couldn’t fit a person and an oxygen tank, the divers would take the boy’s tank off his back and slowly guide the boy through.
All four boys were taken to the hospital.
The first boys exited the cave several hours before they were expected to, as each leg of the journey was estimated to take six hours.
Osottanakorn said Sunday evening that “today, everything was smooth,” and that the boys were in good health.
He added the next rescue attempts would take place after a break of about 10 to 20 hours after authorities assess conditions and replenish the oxygen tanks.
Ambulances were seen heading back to the rescue site at about 1:30 p.m. local time. Rescue efforts began again around the same time.
A helicopter was seen landing near the cave site.Rain has also began to come down heavily.
Still, as the rescue of the rest of the nine soccer team members is in progress, many are celebrating the successful efforts to bring the first four boys out.
Health officials on Monday afternoon said the four rescued boys are in good overall health and should be able to see their families later today. However, the boys will likely have no physical contact with their relatives until lab results indicate they are healthy.
Thai health officials: rescued boys will now be in isolation for 1-2 days, inside a sterilized isolation unit, meaning no physical contact with their parents. A heartbreaking, necessary precaution at a time when all these kids and parents want to do is give one another a hug. pic.twitter.com/4efURwzBIF
— Matt Rivers (@MattRiversCNN) July 8, 2018
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