Rescue divers began a treacherous, hours-long rescue operation Sunday into a flooded cave where 12 teen boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks.
Officials told reporters that 18 divers entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex at 10 a.m. to retrieve the boys and their coach.
Narongsak Osottanakorn, a former provincial governor who is leading the rescue efforts, said the earliest the boys would come out was 9 p.m. and that they would all come out gradually, the Guardian reported.
The group, which went missing on June 23, was found alive by divers July 2 on a small ledge above the water in a section of the 6-mile-long Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex.
Since then officials have been exploring a series of options, including teaching the boys to dive and trying to drain water out of the cave, to bring the group to safety.
Authorities had said that it could take months for all 13 to be extracted from the cave, but a combination of factors, including the weather, the water level, and the readiness of the team, made Sunday the best day to start the mission.
“Today is the peak of our readiness,” Osottanakorn told reporters.
Though water levels in the cave have dropped, the journey remains dangerous even for experienced divers.
On Friday, a former