The Thai boys cave rescue is underway: what we know so far

An ambulance carrying one of the boys rescued from Tham Luang Nang Non cave heading towards the hospital on July 8, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Four boys have been rescued so far, but there’s still more to go.

A mission is underway to rescue 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach who have been trapped in a cave in northern Thailand for two weeks. A team of expert divers deployed Sunday morning to help guide the boys through the 2.5 partially submerged miles to safety — an operation that could last up to four days. Thus far, four of the 13 have made it out.

On Saturday, June 23, a group of 12 boys between the ages of 11 and 16 went with their soccer coach to explore a cave in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system. As they entered, heavy rain picked up, and the rising water trapped them inside. The group of 13 was missing for nine days before they were discovered by divers last Monday.

People in Thailand and around the world rejoiced when the group was found, but there was another problem: getting them out. Oxygen levels in the cave are dropping, making it risky to wait until monsoon season ends in October and water levels fall.

And so, a rescue mission to get the team, whose nickname is the Wild Boars, out of the cave began on Sunday morning, when 13 specialist divers and five Thai Navy SEALS were sent in to try to reach the boys and escort them out.

Vox’s Radhika Viswanathan has a full explainer on the situation here.

 Javier Zarracina/Vox

So far, four boys have been freed, according to the Thai Navy SEAL’s Facebook page and a press conference the regional governor gave Sunday evening. Here’s what else we know:

What we know

  • An extraction mission to rescue the 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in northern Thailand began at 10 am local time Sunday.
  • Thirteen specialist divers and five Thai Navy SEALS were sent to try to reach the boys and get them out. The plan is to pair each person being rescued with two divers, fit them with a facemask connected to an air tank, and escort them out.
  • The Thai Navy SEAL’s Facebook page confirmed on Sunday that four boys have been rescued so far. Ambulances and a helicopter were seen leaving the cave earlier in the day.
  • The route the boys and divers need to travel to get out of the cave is 2.5 miles from the cave entrance, and portions of it are submerged, but not all. It takes experienced divers about five hours to make the trip.
  • The operation could take days to complete, and part of its success will hinge on whether monsoon rains pick up again. According to the New York Times, rain won’t immediately make water levels rise in the cave, but it will make matters even more urgent.
  • The escape route is fraught: A former Thai Navy SEAL, 38-year-old Saman Gunan, died on Friday while trying to reach the group with oxygen.
  • The boys and their coach have been trapped in the cave since Saturday, June 23, and they were discovered on Monday, July 2.
  • It was initially thought they might be able to wait out monsoon season in the cave, but dropping oxygen levels have caused concern. An air pipe has been run from the rescue base inside the cave to the chamber where the boys and their coach are located, about 2.5 miles from the mouth of the cave.
 Javier Zarracina/Vox

What we don’t know

  • How long the rescue operation will take, and if weather conditions will affect it.
  • The condition of the boys rescued and their coach.