SULLIVAN: Well, the Chiang Rai governor, the man in charge, said the first stage went much better than expected. Eight boys were rescued in two separate missions and brought to a hospital in the nearby city of Chiang Rai all in good condition, according to public health officials.
In comments released by the government, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said the same divers who took part in Sunday's rescue will also conduct the next operation as they know the cave conditions and what to do. Mr Narongsak would not say which of the boys were rescued.
Rescued schoolboys are moved from a military helicopter to an awaiting ambulance at a military airport in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 9, 2018.
The mission was only launched on Sunday morning because floodwaters inside the cave were at their lowest level in days.
The Facebook page for the Thai Navy SEALs has been posting updates on the effort. An entire floor of the 14-story hospital has been reserved for treating the soccer team, according to local media reports.
Cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape to be a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving. A former Thai navy SEAL died making the dive on Friday.
The rescue mission has faced a ideal storm of obstacles since it began, including monsoonal rains, a lack of oxygen in the cave and the fact that numerous boys trapped inside don't know how to swim let alone dive. But initial euphoria over finding the boys alive quickly turned into deep anxiety as rescuers raced to find a way to get them out, with Narongsak at one point dubbing the effort "Mission Impossible".
Four boys among a group of 13 trapped in a flooded Thai cave reached the rescue base camp inside the complex on Sunday and will walk out soon, the country's defense ministry spokesman told AFP.
Authorities have said the monsoons could cause water to rise in the cave. The potential for rising water and the dwindling oxygen levels added to the urgency of getting the team out. Heavy rain has struck the region intermittently over the last three days and further downpours could set back draining efforts at the cave.
The mother of one of the boys said she's sleeping at the cave site as she waits for confirmation that her son was pulled from the cave.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after soccer practice on June 23, setting out on an adventure to explore the cave complex near the border with Burma (Myanmar) and celebrate a boy's birthday. The team and coach were exploring the cave after a practice game when heavy rainfall and flooding cut off their escape route out of the cave and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days.
The ordeal has riveted Thailand and captured the world's attention.
Their disappearance triggered a massive worldwide search and rescue operation involving officials, soldiers and volunteers from the United States, Britain, Australia, Germany, Japan and China, among others.
Divers are guiding the boys in darkness through tight and hard passageways.
On Sunday, Musk tweeted a series of videos showing a team of divers testing the pod in the swimming pool at Palisades Charter High School.