World

Nine wait for rescue inside Thai cave

By AAP Newswire

Eight young soccer players and their coach are continuing to wait for a team of top cave divers to lead them on the treacherous journey out of a flooded cave in Thailand where they've been trapped for 16 days.

Four boys were safely guided through four kilometres of cold, murky water and narrow, rocky tunnels to finally exit the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai province shortly after 8pm (local time) Sunday night.

Two cave divers accompanied each boy and were met with cheers of joy and applause when they finally made it to the cave's mouth in a rescue mission that has captured the world's attention.

The four boys are now being treated in a provincial hospital but there is no news yet on their conditions.

Chiang Rai's acting Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said after the first group of boys were successfully rescued, the divers would take a 10 to 20 hour pause in operations so scuba tanks could be replenished with oxygen.

The boys, many of whom are not confident swimmers, have been given training in scuba diving so they can navigate the flooded passageways, with one measuring just 38cm in diameter.

"The operation went much better than expected," Osatanakorn, the leader of the rescue mission, said on Sunday night.

But with more rain predicted the pressure is on to remove all the group.

The news comes as Elon Musk's Space X rocket company continues to test a "tiny kid-sized submarine" that it believes will be able to help free the children.

The mini-sub was being tested in California and, if successful, it will be flown on a 17-hour flight to Thailand, a spokesman for Musk's Boring Co. said, adding that Thai officials had requested the device.

A video of the testing has been posted on Twitter.

Six Australian Federal Police divers are supporting the Thai Navy in the mission, together with a liaison officer and interpreter.

The divers formed part of the 'daisy chain' of rescuers who led the four boys to the surface on Sunday.

A South Australian anaesthetist and experienced diver Richard Harris was part of the medical team that determined the boys' fitness to undertake the arduous four kilometre journey.

Cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape to be a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving.

The death Friday of a former Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, underscored the risks. The diver, the first fatality of the rescue effort, was working in a volunteer capacity and died on a mission to place oxygen canisters along the route.