THAILAND'S officials have this morning launched their dramatic rescue mission to save 12 boys and their football coach from inside a Thai cave. How long until the soccer team is SAVED?
A dangerous rescue mission to free 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach trapped inside a Thai cave for two weeks began on Sunday, authorities said, with the first survivor to possibly emerge 11 hours later.
Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand's elite navy SEAL unit would attempt to bring the boys - some of whom are as young as 11 and not strong swimmers - through narrow, submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver earlier this week.
"Today is D-Day," Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue mission, told reporters. "At 10 am today (0300 GMT) 13 foreign divers went in to extract the children along with 5 Thai navy SEALs".
He said the first boys could emerge from the cave at around 9 pm local time (1400 GMT).
The rescue mission began after rainshowers soaked the Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province for the past 24 hours, heightening the risks in what the governor has called a "war with water and time" to save the team.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after soccer practice on June 23, setting out to explore the cave complex near the border with Myanmar.
A mammoth response operation - including a medical unit, ambulance and helicopter for every boy - is waiting outside the cave for the team to emerge.
Narongsak said the boys could start to emerge as early as 9 pm on Sunday, but that there was "no time limit".
He added the rescue operation could take about two days - but could also be halted at any time.