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Thai authorities told media today to leave a camp site near the cave where 12 boys and their coach have been trapped for more than two weeks so that "victims" could be helped, possibly signalling a long-awaited rescue effort to get them out.

The rescued boys emerged as night fell from the Tham Luang cave complex after navigating a treacherous escape route of more than four kilometres (2.5 miles) through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways. "They have not been moved to Chiang Rai hospital yet", Tossathep said.

All four boys were said to be in "perfect" condition, and safely transported to a hospital. A defence ministry official earlier told AFP six boys had "come out".

A unsafe rescue mission to free 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach trapped inside a Thai cave for two weeks has begun, authorities said.

The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach became stranded when they went exploring in the cave after a practice game.

The soccer team's ordeal has drawn huge media attention in Thailand and overseas, as monsoon conditions worsened amid a frantic search to find the trapped youngsters.

Rescuing them all could take three to four days and depended on the weather, an army commander involved in the mission said.

The governor has called the rescue a "war with water and time".

The initial search was conducted by military divers, who were later joined by a group of 30 personnel of the United States Pacific Command and British cave diving rescue experts Richard Stanton, John Volanthen, and Robert Harper.

Narongsak explained the group chose to move forward with the mission because heavy rains are expected in the area in the coming days, which could have further complicated the rescue.

During the briefing, he said, "Today was the best situation - in terms of kids' health, water, and our rescue readiness".

The rescue operation will now pause for at least 10 hours, according to Narongsak Osatanakorn, chief of the command centers coordinating the rescue, so that divers can replenish their oxygen tanks.

Officials worked to supply the 12 boys and their coach with oxygen through a 3 mile (5 kilometer) cable running through the cave's winding chambers on Friday.

A Thai policeman guards an area under rainfall near the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province, July 7, 2018.

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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