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'Today is D-Day' for Thai boys trapped in cave, says rescue operation chief

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By Alice Tidey & REUTERS
Rescue workers near the Tham Luang cave complex in Thailand on July 8, 2018
Rescue workers near the Tham Luang cave complex in Thailand on July 8, 2018   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

The operation to extract twelve boys and their football coach from the Thai cave they’ve been trapped in for the past two weeks in underway, authorities said Sunday.

“Today is D-Day,” Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue mission, told reporters.

"At 10 am today (0400 CET) 13 foreign divers went in to extract the children along with 5 Thai navy SEALs,” he added

The boys are expected to come out of their subterranean prison at around 9 pm local time (1500 CET), although Osottanakorn warned that there was “no time limit” and that the rescue operation could take days or be halted at any time.

An Australian doctor, who is part of Sunday's rescue mission, checked the health of the boys last night and gave the all clear for the rescue to proceed, Narongsak said.

Gong Hui, a Chinese diver involved in the operation that has drawn some 130 Thai and international divers, told Reuters on Saturday before the fresh rains that water levels in the cave had "receded a lot" after sustained pumping had removed millions of liters of water.

To escape, the children must dive through dark, narrow passageways sometimes no more than two-feet (0.6- meter) wide, that have challenged some of the world's leading cave divers.

A former member of Thailand's SEAL unit died on Thursday night after delivering oxygen to the cave.

The Thai Navy Seals posted a picture on Facebook after the operation was announced on Sunday showing several members of the rescue team linking arms.