Six boys rescued from Thai cave - medical team

Credit PA

Credit PA

Thirty-five emergency doctors were on standby as the "exhausted" boys were flown by military helicopter or driven in ambulances to Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital.

Thai media reported one of the four boys was in a critical condition and a family friend told a reporter it was Mongkol, the weakest of the group, whose condition has since stabilised.

Officials said on Sunday night that the extraordinary operation would now pause for 10 to 20 hours to assess next steps, check equipment and refill oxygen tanks stationed along the risky route.

Nine people remained trapped in the cave, including the team's coach, after four boys were rescued on Sunday, the first day of the rescue operation.

The original group of 12 young footballers were aged 11 to 16, and their coach Tham Luang is 25. A former Thai navy SEAL died making the dive on Friday.

Eight boys are still inside the cave and along with the team coach.

On Saturday, Mr Narongsak said mild weather and falling water levels over the past few days had created optimal conditions for an evacuation that would not last if it rains heavily again.

Their plight has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, as authorities struggled to devise a plan to get the boys and their coach out through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways that in some places are completely flooded.

Between four to six boys have been rescued in the first phase of the operation to free the trapped soccer team, Thai officials told reporters.

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Authorities have not confirmed the identity of the rescued boys.

However, a statement issued by the rescue operation earlier said that they couldn't confirm how many children would be brought out in this first stage of the rescue, "due to the complex nature of the cave and difficulty of the operation".

Ruamkatanyu Foundation rescuers are seen drillining ahead of the operation at the Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, in this screen grab of a video obtained on social media and taken July 7, 2018. He had said fresh air tanks needed to be laid along the underwater route.

Sunday's mission involved 13 foreign divers and five Thai navy SEALs. They had been missing for 10 days before they were discovered.

Thailand's rainy season began on May 26 but the cave where the boys are trapped is located in the country's north, which gets much less rain than the south.

The other, and perhaps more worrying, was that oxygen levels in the complex were falling close to unsafe levels.

"Four have been brought out from the cave site".

Rescue crews found them deep inside the cave on July 2.

"It is important to appreciate that the United Kingdom cave divers continue to work alongside the Thai Navy SEAL divers and a combination of cave divers and open water divers from many other nations", the statement said.

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