Rescuer dies working to free trapped boys in Thai cave

Ekapol Chanthawong on a trip with the Wild Boars to a meditation trip

Ekapol Chanthawong on a trip with the Wild Boars to a meditation trip

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday morning local time, Chiang Rai acting Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said the trapped boys were aware of efforts being made to rescue them but the extraction will be long and incredibly unsafe.

Six boys have exited a flooded cave in northern Thailand where they have been trapped for more than two weeks, a senior member of rescue operation's medical team said on Sunday, according to multiple reports.

The boys and their coach had been stranded in Tham Luang Nang Non when they went exploring in the cave after a scrimmage June 23. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days, CBS News reported.

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The order to leave the site came as irritation over the media presence grew, and a day after the rescue mission chief said conditions were flawless for the evacuation to begin.

The rescue mission began after rain showers soaked the Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province for the past 24 hours, heightening the risks in what the governor has called a "war with water and time" to save the team. In total, the mission could last several days, he also said, though the team of worldwide divers on the site are apparently feeling "buoyed" by the success of the operation so far. The boys will gradually come out accompanied by two divers each. "I promise to take the very best care of the kids", Ekkapol said in a note given to a diver on Friday, and published on the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page on Saturday.

The rescue operation began at 10am local time with the first child expected to emerge at 9pm. They will be taken to a nearby helipad with a police motorcycle escort before being flown to the provincial capital of Chiang Rai for treatment in a hospital there.

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The billionaire entrepreneur said this would create an underwater air tunnel with the ability to "auto-conform to odd shapes". Things are getting desperate for the 12 boys and their football coach, who have been underground since June 23.

Osottanakorn, the head of the rescue mission, told reporters that the team had rehearsed the plan for several days, and had cleared a sizeable amount of the flooding from the cave. Even as the world prays, Thai authorities are taking measures to keep them alive.

"Today we are most ready", Osatanakorn said. "The teams here are happy the boys are being rescued but also anxious about the severity of the boys' conditions".

Narongsak said efforts to remove floodwater and divert water flows have been "very successful", but seasonal monsoon rains are forecast to hit the region this weekend and throughout next week.

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