The first two schoolboys have emerged from a flooded Thai cave after divers launched a daring and risky mission to rescue the children and their soccer coach, who have been trapped underground for more than two weeks, a Thai official said.
The rescued boys emerged as night fell 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 ambulances and helicopter are on standby to take the rescue to a hospital.
Operations to rescue the group began Sunday morning, officials said. A defence ministry official earlier told AFP six boys had "come out".
Chiang Rai governor and operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said the children were healthy and taken to the Chiang Rai hospital.
The first of 13 members of a youth soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand have been rescued and four boys were evacuated from the cave Sunday, according to Chiang Rai provincial acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn. "Today is D-Day", he said.
The order to leave the site came as irritation over the media presence grew, and a day after the rescue mission chief said conditions were ideal for the evacuation to begin.
The 12 boys and their coach were exploring the cave when they became trapped by flood waters on 23 June.
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The soccer team's ordeal has drawn huge media attention in Thailand and overseas, as monsoon conditions worsened amid a frantic search to find the trapped youngsters.
Mild weather and falling water levels over the past few days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation that won't last if it rains again, Narongsak had said.
Eight of boys and the coach remained inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex as authorities paused the worldwide effort until Monday to replenish air tanks along the treacherous exit route.
Thai rescuers are being assisted by an global team comprising experts from China, Australia, the United States and Britain. They had been missing for 10 days before they were discovered.
The next round of rescue is expected to begin no earlier than 5pm on Monday if the weather condition, water levels and the remaining survivors' physical as well as mental health are stable.
There will likely be at least 12 hours of radio silence after the divers commence their rescue mission, which means that their prospects of success will not be known until midnight or later, Australian time.
Following a relatively dry spell, fresh torrential downpours could pose a setback to rescuers who have struggled to drain the Tham Luang cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai.