Four young footballers have been successfully rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand – more than two weeks after their ordeal began.
Although the risky operation has gone “better than expected” so far, their football coach and eight other boys will have to wait up to 20 hours before the rescue effort resumes.
Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said: “We can only carry on the operation once we are ready and this will be done soon, because the air tank and other systems have to be reinstalled.
“The conditions must be stable like today before we can continue the operation.”
Officials have said they are battling a “war with water and time” to save the team – warning it could be two to four days before all 13 are brought to safety. Among them are weak swimmers and children as young as 11.
Each of the four boys rescued on Sunday were accompanied by two expert divers as they were gradually extracted.
Their only way out was through dark, tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents – perilous conditions that claimed the life of a former Thai navy SEAL earlier this week.
One diver told Reuters: “It’s dangerous to the most experienced divers to go through. It’s pretty scary.”
After leaving the Tham Luang cave, the boys were flown by helicopter to the nearby city of Chiang Rai, where ambulances took them to hospital.
Five emergency doctors were awaiting their arrival, with a source at the hospital telling Reuters: “The teams here are happy the boys are being rescued but also anxious about the severity of the boys’ conditions. We’re under a lot of pressure.”
Governor Narongsak said the condition of those still trapped is a constant concern, telling reporters: “Divers will work with doctors in the cave to examine each the kids’ health to determine who should get to come out first.”
At the end of Sunday’s rescue efforts – described as “D-Day” by one official – Thai navy SEALs wrote on Facebook: “Have sweet dreams everyone. Goodnight. Hooyah.”
A total of 90 divers are involved in the operation and 50 of them are foreign, some of them from the UK.
The boys went missing after football practice with their 25-year-old coach on 23 June.
They had set out on an adventure to explore the cave – reportedly for a picnic to celebrate one of their birthdays.
Bursts of monsoon rain caused the water inside the cave to rise, leaving them trapped.
Millions of litres of water have been pumped out in recent days, but experts have warned that further downpours could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square metres (108 square feet).
Governor Narongsak warned: “Finding the boys doesn’t mean we’ve finished our mission. It is only a small battle we’ve won, but the war has not ended. The war ends when we win all three battles – the battles to search, rescue and send them home.”