Day 2 of Thai cave rescue operation

Rescue operation begins for 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a cave in Thailand

The boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16 years old, and their 25-year-old coach had been exploring in the cave after a practice game June 23.

Rain on Saturday evening and throughout Sunday was thought to be the catalyst for starting the rescue operation but appears not to have halted or significantly slowed its progress.

The cave system, in a limestone mountain range bordering Myanmar in northern Thailand, has proven to be a formidable challenge for the global rescue coalition drawing some of the world's best divers who have volunteered to help in the operation alongside Thai Navy SEALs.

They are being rescued in groups.

Rescuing them all could take three to four days and depended on the weather, an army commander involved in the mission said. They had been missing for 10 days before they were discovered.

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This means there are still eight boys to go, as well as their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong. A former Thai navy SEAL passed out making the dive Friday and died.

But the Chiang Rai governor supervising the mission, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said earlier that mild weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation that won't last if it rains again. Once the team are ready, they will do so immediately. "If we don't do it today we will lose our opportunity".

Between the base camp inside the cave and the trapped boys were twisting, turning cave passageways with torrents of water gushing through.

In 2011 and 2012, he led a team of Aussie divers to record depths of 194 and 221 metres in what's believed to be one of the world's deepest cold water caves, searching for the source of the Pearse River. Ropes were installed to help guide the boys through the darkness.

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Officials had looked at many different ways to save the boys and their coach.

Falling oxygen levels, and with numerous boys not able to swim well, present further risks should they panic as they are guided slowly through the pitch-black waters.

More than 100 exploratory holes were also bored - some shallow, but the longest 400 metres deep - into the mountainside in an attempt to open a second evacuation route and avoid forcing the boys into the risky dive.

Thai officials said Friday that oxygen levels inside the cave plummeted to a unsafe 15% - shy of the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's "optimal range" of oxygen, which is between 19.5% and 23.5%.

The first boy rescued exited the cave 5:40 p.m. local time, followed by three of his team members shortly after.

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Two Britons, John Volanthen and Richard Stanton, are understood to have a leadership role and were among the divers who found the boys and their coach marooned on a bank inside the cave.

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