MAE SAI, Thailand — Four of the soccer players trapped in a Thailand cave have safely made the harrowing underwater passage out of the cave and were at the local hospital, the head of search operations, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said at a news conference Sunday night.
The Facebook page for the Thai Navy SEALs announced that “Wild Boar No. 4 is out of the cave,” in a reference to the team’s mascot name, the Wild Boars.
A Facebook Messenger group organized by some of the parents of the players identified two of the rescued players. One, Mongkol Boonpiam, was said to among those ailing the worst. The other player was identified as Prajak Sutham.
Others were reported to have made progress along the cave network. Experts said the journey from the boys’ cavern to the cave entrance, including long passages completely submerged in murky, rushing water, takes even the best cave divers in the world six hours to navigate.
The head coach for the soccer team, Nopparat Khanthawong, who did not enter the cave with the others two weeks ago, said in an interview in the nearby town of Mae Sai: “I’m happy that children are coming out. All I can do is to send my prayers and support to the children and rescuers.”
He added: “We don’t know the physical condition of the boys. Please keep them coming!”
Divers began the effort to pull the 12 boys and their soccer coach Sunday morning from the cave as officials raced against the threat of rains making an already difficult rescue impossible.
Narongsak said the plan called for the first boy to be brought out around 9 p.m. Sunday. But it could take days to recover them all from the cave, officials said.
The boys and their coach will be brought out one at a time by 13 foreign cave divers and five Thai Navy SEAL divers who were participating in the arduous rescue attempt, Narongsak said. The divers entered the cave at 10 a.m.
Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakham, deputy commander of the third army, said it would take two to four days to bring them all out.
Narongsak said that this was the best chance to bring out the boys safely.
“We believe there are no days when we have been readier than today,” Narongsak said. “If we don’t do the rescue on the day when we are readiest, we might lose the opportunity to carry out this mission.”
“Therefore, we started the mission at 10 a.m.,” he added.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.