Bangkok: Four members of a youth soccer team were rescued Sunday from a cave complex in northern Thailand where they had been stranded for more than two weeks, according to the provincial governor.
The four were checked out in a field hospital near the cave and then helicoptered 37 miles south to a hospital in Chiang Rai, where an entire floor has been reserved for the rescue effort, said Narongsak Osatanakorn, the outgoing governor of Chiang Rai province.
More rescues were expected for the eight remaining players and their coach, who have been trapped since June 23 by floodwaters in a dark, six-mile-long cave system. Because all the rescue equipment was used up in Sunday’s attempts, the next push would have to wait until Monday morning, Osatanakorn said.
Heavy rains are about to fall over the lush mountain range that houses the cave, adding urgency to the rescue. According to a graphic released by the Thai government, the plan is for two divers to be paired with each person being rescued, who will be fitted with a face mask connected to a compressed air tank. At especially narrow parts of the cave, the tanks will be released from their backs and rolled instead.
But experts have warned that extraction efforts will bear significant risk, underscored by the death of a retired Thai Navy SEAL early Friday when he ran out of oxygen during a dive. He was placing compressed air tanks along the exit route when he fell unconscious and died shortly after.
President Donald Trump said on Twitter that the United States is “working very closely” with Thai officials.