Two boys are reported to have exited a cave after being trapped for 16 days deep inside the flooded underground system.
Local media Khaosod English reported that the first two unidentified children have successfully exited the caves and are being cared for at a field medical tent after a successful rescue guided by professional divers.
The chief of Chiang Rai’s health department, Tossathep Boonthong, told Reuters, “Two kids are out. They are currently at the field hospital near the cave.”
Shortly after, footage from the BBC showed an ambulance leaving the cave site. ChannelNewsAsia correspondents wrote on Twitter that a helicopter had also taken off from the cave site towards Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, which is 60 kilometers (37 miles) away.
WATCH: BBC footage of ambulance leaving cave site amidst reports first boys from trapped football team have been rescued #thamluangcave #thamluang #ถ้ำหลวง #13ชีวิตติดถ้ำ #13ชีวิตรอดแล้ว #พาหมูป่ากลับบ้าน #ThailandCaveRescue pic.twitter.com/qu441ZuiJH
— Howard Johnson (@Howardrjohnson) July 8, 2018
A helicopter flies from #ThamLuang cave complex towards Chiang Rai's city centre following reports of first two boys successfully evacuated. They'll be sent to a hospital for medical care https://t.co/Nz93mYEwJj pic.twitter.com/WVRlAFlSMX
— Pichayada P. (@PichayadaCNA) July 8, 2018
The divers would have guided them back to the cave entrance through more than 4 kilometers or treacherous partly-flooded terrain.
— Steve (@SteveInCM) July 8, 2018
ปฏิบัติการพาหมูป่าออกถ้ำหลวง โดยให้ซีล 2 คน ประกบ 1 คน หน้า-หลัง มีเชือกนำทาง ซึ่งเด็กจะสวมหน้ากากดำน้ำแบบเต็มหน้าและใส่ชุดเว็ทสูท ต้องเจอกับเสี่ยงทั้ง กระแสน้ำ ความคดเคี้ยวถ้ำ-คอขวด และอุปสรรคใหญ่ คือจุดน้ำลึกสุด 5 ม. คาดใช้เวลา 11 ชม. เข้า 6 ชม. ออก 5 ชม. #พาทีมหมูป่ากลับบ้าน pic.twitter.com/gVGpwwro3q
— สำนักข่าวไทย อสมท (@TNAMCOT) July 8, 2018
The first boy walked out of the cave at 5:40 p.m. local time, with the second not far behind at 5:50 p.m., Khaosod English reported.
Officials in earlier estimates did not expect the boys to emerge until 9 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET). But it seems reports of low water levels have allowed the speed up of rescue efforts.
Rescue teams at the entrance of the cave saying the lowered water has decreased the journey out of the cave as many chambers are walk-able right now.
— Florian Witulski (@vaitor) July 8, 2018
The first reports of the two boys emerging were heard by police radio chatter, which revealed that two boys were in the field hospital near the cave entrance and would soon be transferred to a waiting helicopter at Baan Chong football field.
The helicopters and 13 ambulances are standing by as the rest of the team are expected to emerge from the cave over the next few hours, Khaosod English reported.
These are just some of the helicopters standing by to fly out the 13 “Wild Boars” youth football team to the next hospital if necessary, as divers are beginning their extraction out of the #ThamLaung since earlier this morning. pic.twitter.com/QuPN3HhjIr
— Saksith Saiyasombut (@SaksithCNA) July 8, 2018
Rescuers began the mission at 10 a.m. local time, the acting Chiang Rai Governor, Narongsak Osatanakorn, told reporters earlier on July 8.
“We’ve rehearsed [the medical preparations] for the past three to four days. We even practiced with a real kid—practicing the position of O2 tank and the marking … I assure you that we are very ready in this mission.
“I ask you all to patiently wait for news and send support and wish them success,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.