The 12 boys and their coach trapped in Tham Luang Cave for 16 days have been fully briefed on the rescue plan and are in good spirits and health, mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said on Sunday.
“They are ready and decided by themselves to participate in the operation to extract them from the cave,” Narongsak said. They are physically and mentally strong, he said.
Their families, who have been camped outside the cave since the group went missing on June 23, were informed of the plan and agreed it should go ahead.
They were invited at 7am to talk to members of the rescue mission.
Narongsak told the press on Sunday morning that 13 foreign diving experts and five professional Thai divers entered the cave at 10am and would begin the extraction process as soon as possible.
The first of the boys was expected to be brought out after about 11 hours, around 9pm.
The 12 members of the Mu Pa Academy football club, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing in the Thailand’s fourth-longest cave on June 23 after flash flooding blocked their exit route.
A multinational rescue operation led to their being found safe on a dry ledge, but their extraction through narrow, still-flooded accessways has posed a dangerous challenge, especially amid concern for their health after being trapped without light or nourishment for so long.
Narongsak said Australian doctors had examined the footballers and determined they were strong enough for the extraction to begin.
They’d participated in rescue drills in the past few days, he said.
The decision to launch the mission on Sunday came after three chambers inside the cave drained enough to walk through and because a fresh rainstorm is in the forecast. Rescue workers are working outside the cave are trying to block water from entering the cave.