Bangkok, July 8 :The mission to evacuate 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach trapped deep inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand was underway on Sunday.
It started at 10 a.m., an international contingent of 13 specialist divers descended into the watery network of underground tunnels below the Mae Sai mountains.They expect the first rescue to be completed by 9 p.m. Sunday.
The boys and the coach will dive out of the cave one at a time, each accompanied by a member of a team of international and Thai divers, officials said.
“Our readiness is at the highest today. Today is D-day,” said Chiang Rai Governor, Narongsak Osotthanakorn.
Rescuers have described the mission as a dwindling window of opportunity, with forecasters predicting the return of heavy monsoon rains in the coming days, effectively sealing off the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex until October.
At the site of the caves, volunteers assisting in the operation described the rescue attempt as a “now or never” scenario.
“Today is the D-Day for the rescuers,” said Narongsak Osottanakorn, the outgoing governor of Chiang Rai province. “We cannot wait any longer.”
To reach them, divers will need to successfully navigate a network of sprawling narrow tunnels, with officials close to the operation suggesting rescuers will use a “buddy” system, with each diver paired with a child.
Extra oxygen tanks will also be positioned along the route, CNN reported.
On the road leading to the tunnels, a near continuous convoy of trucks and military vehicles delivered troops and medical equipment equipment, including a large cache of oxygen tanks .