Six of 12 schoolboys have exited a flooded cave in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand where they have been trapped by monsoon floods for more than two weeks, Thai officials said.
"I have received information that six have exited the cave", a senior member of the rescue operations' team told Reuters.
The rescue operation began at 10 am on Sunday (03:00 GMT) and the boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old football coach, will be taken out one by one, accompanied by two divers each. The rescue team includes 13 international divers and five members of Thailand’s elite navy SEAL unit.
The operation is a race against time as more rain is predicted in the coming days. Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said Sunday’s operation went smoothly but they would need to make sure all conditions were stable for the next phase of evacuations.
The boys and their 25-year-old coach who have been trapped underground since June 23 and were discovered by British divers on Monday. Rescuing them all could take three to four days and depended on the weather, an army commander involved in the mission had said earlier.
The only way to bring them out of the complex cave system is by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygen-depleted air. A former Thai navy SEAL passed out making the dive Friday and died.
Thirteen medical teams were stationed outside the cave - each with its own helicopter and ambulance - one for each of 12 boys and their coach.
Before announcing that the rescue was underway, authorities ordered the throngs of media that have gathered at the cave from around the world to leave.
UPDATE 08/07/2018 21:00
Four of 12 Thai schoolboys have reached safety, Thai officials have said. It was earlier claimed that six had been rescued. All four boys safely reached a hospital in Chiang Rai, the nearest major city. The rest wait for rescue to resume Monday.
UPDATE 09/07/2018 11:51
The mission to rescue the boys and their soccer coach resumed on Monday, the chief of the mission said, after the first four boys rescued were judged healthy as they recovered in hospital.
UPDATE 09/07/2018 21:00
Four more boys were brought out of the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex Monday, while four remain inside with their coach. The rescued boys are being treated in quarantine at Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital.
UPDATE 10/07/2018 15:15
All the boys are now out of the cave, according to MThai, one of the most visited news websites in Thailand. The coach is understood to also have left the cave. Behind them are a doctor and several Thai Navy SEALs.
Turkey train crash leaves 10 dead, 73 wounded
A train carrying 362 passengers, derailed in northwest Turkey on Sunday, leaving an at least 10 people dead and more than 70 injured, local officials said.
The train was travelling from Kapikule on the Bulgarian border to Istanbul, when five of its carriages came off the rails due to heavy rains and landslides.
The National Medical Rescue Team and Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey are also supporting the rescue efforts, along with the military, health personnel and villagers, national media reported.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said he had received information from the ministers of transport and interior about the incident, and sent condolences for those killed. Turkey’s rail network has been hit by several fatal accidents over the last years.
UPDATE 09/07/2018 11:59
The death toll in the train derailment in Turkey on Sunday jumped to 24, Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag said on Monday, a sharp jump from the previous toll of 10. Hospitals nearby were treating 124 people injured in Sunday's accident, Turkish health minister Ahmet Demircan said, according to state media.
With reporting by Reuters and Anadolu