EXTRA TIME: Mohamed Elneny prays for safe return of trapped kids in Thailand cave

EXTRA TIME: Mohamed Elneny prays for safe return of trapped kids in Thailand cave

After two weeks, Thais could breathe a sigh of relief after the successful rescue mission of some of the trapped young boys in a cave

Egypt international Mohamed Elneny has prayed for the safe return of the remaining eight children and their coach who are still trapped in a cave in northern Thailand.

A soccer team including 12 players between the ages of 11-16 and a coach were trapped inside Tham Luang cave on June 23 when sudden rainfall flooded their exit.

However, in a rescue operation on Sunday, four of them were rescued by 13 foreign divers and five of Thailand’s Navy SEALS.

And the Arsenal midfielder, yet to return for preseason duties, has joined the citizens of the Asian country and the rest of the world in praying for return of the kids.

The Latest: Thai cave rescue underway

The Latest: Thai cave rescue underway

Updated

MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — The Latest on the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in northern Thailand (all times local):

2:10 a.m.

Officials say it could take up to four days to complete the rescue of eight boys and their soccer coach from inside a northern Thailand cave.

Authorities temporarily stopped their efforts Monday to replenish air tanks along the cave’s treacherous exit route.

Expert divers on Sunday managed to get four of the 12 boys to safety. They were quickly transported to a hospital in the town of Chiang Rai, the provincial capital.

The names of the rescued boys were not released.

Rescuers have been navigating a dangerous and complicated plan to get the children out under the threat of heavy rain and rising water underground.

The entire group had been trapped for more than two weeks.

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12:25 a.m.

The California tunnel company run by Elon Musk is continuing to maintain a presence at the Thai cave where several boys and their soccer coach are awaiting rescue.

Sam Teller, spokesman for Boring Co., said Sunday that the company has four engineers who are “offering support in any way the government deems useful.”

Musk tweeted early Saturday that he was working with a team from his Space X rocket company to build a “tiny kid-size submarine” to transport the children.

But Saturday night, he tweeted that the cave was now closed for the rescue by divers.

“Will continue testing in LA in case needed later or somewhere else in the future,” he wrote.

Musk says the sub would be light enough to be carried by two divers and small enough to get through narrow cave gaps.

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9:15 p.m.

The official heading the operation to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in northern Thailand says the operation is going “better than expected.”

Chiang Rai provincial acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn made the comment at a news conference Sunday evening after rescuers extracted four of the boys from the cave where they had been trapped for more than two weeks. Narongsak said the four were then taken to a hospital. Their condition was not immediately clear.

Narongsak said the healthiest have been taken out first, and the next phase of the operation would start in 10-20 hours.

He said that 13 foreign and five Thai divers were taking part in the rescue and that two divers would accompany each boy as they’re gradually extracted.

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8:05 p.m.

Thai navy SEALs say rescuers have taken four members of a youth soccer team out of the cave where they had been trapped for more than two weeks, part of an operation to rescue the 12 boys and their coach.

The operation to rescue the boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach by having them dive out of the flooded cave began Sunday morning, with expert divers entering the sprawling complex for the complicated and dangerous mission.

Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is heading the operation, said that 13 foreign and five Thai divers were taking part in the rescue and that two divers would accompany each boy as they’re gradually extracted.

The operation began at 10 a.m. Shortly before 8 p.m., the SEALs reported on their official Facebook page that four had been rescued.

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7:15 p.m.

Two ambulances have left from a cave in northern Thailand, hours after an operation began to rescue 12 youth soccer players and their coach.

The ambulances were seen Sunday evening, but it was unclear who was inside them.

Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is heading the operation, said earlier Sunday that 13 foreign and five Thai divers were taking part in the rescue and two divers will accompany each boy as they’re gradually extracted. He said the operation began at 10 a.m., and it will take at least 11 hours for the first person to be taken out of the cave.

The boys and their coach became stranded when they went exploring in the cave after a practice game June 23. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days.

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6:50 p.m.

Thai authorities say it is unknown when the first group of boys trapped in a flooded cave will begin their dive out of the cave, the key part of a rescue operation underway.

In a statement released late Sunday afternoon, Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn says “divers will work with medics in the cave to assess the boys’ health before determining who will come out first.”

He added: “They cannot decide how many of them will be able to come out for the first operation. Based on the complexity and difficulty of the cave environment it is unknown how long it might take and how many children would exit the cave.”

The rescue operation began at 10 a.m. Sunday when expert divers entered the cave. Trips from the entrance to where the team is trapped and back to the entrance take about 11 hours.

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2:30 p.m.

The Thai navy SEALs, who have been spearheading the rescue effort for the 12 boys and their soccer coach, have posted a photo on their Facebook page with a vow to bring the trapped team home from a flooded cave.

The unit says in a message: “We, the Thai team and the international team, will bring the Wild Boars home.” That’s the name of the young boys’ team.

The risky diving operation to bring them out has started and the first boy is expected to be out of the cave around 9 p.m. Sunday (10 a.m. ET) at the earliest. Rescuers say it may take 2-4 days for the entire team to reach safety, depending on conditions inside the cave.

The local governor in charge of the rescue says the mission was launched Sunday morning because floodwaters inside the cave are at their lowest level in days and rains forecast to hit the region risk flooding the cave again.

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12 noon

A Thai army commander says the ongoing rescue of 12 boys and their coach could take 2-4 days depending on conditions inside the partially flooded cave.

According to Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakam, the 13 “will continuously come out in approximately 2-4 days, which all may change depending on weather and water conditions.”

The governor in charge of the operation says two divers will accompany each boy as they are gradually extracted. The operation began at 10 a.m. and he said it would take at least 11 hours for the first person to be rescued.

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11:35 a.m.

The Thai official in charge of the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach says they’re physically ready and mentally determined for their extraction now underway from a partially flooded cave.

Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn says 13 ambulances and helicopters in two separate locations are ready to transport them to hospitals. The first is expected to reach safety at 9 p.m. Sunday (10 a.m. ET) at the earliest.

Narongsak says the rescue mission was launched because floodwaters inside the cave are at their most optimal level.

He says: “If we keep on waiting and the rains come in the next three or four days, our readiness will decrease.”

He also says the families of the boys have been informed about the risky mission.

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10:40 a.m.

A Thai governor says the operation to bring out 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach from deep inside a cave where they have been trapped for two weeks has begun.

The acting Chiang Rai governor has told reporters “today is D-Day” with 13 foreigner and five Thai divers taking part in the rescue.

He says the divers went in at 10 a.m. and the boys will gradually come out accompanied by two divers each. He says the earliest they will come out is 9 p.m. Sunday (10 a.m. ET).

The only way to bring them out is by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygen-depleted air.

Experienced cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving, as the boys are. The path out is considered especially complicated because of twists and turns in narrow flooded passages.

But the governor supervising the mission 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.

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Corrects day to Sunday.

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8:30 a.m.

Thai authorities have asked media to leave the area around the entrance of the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks, fueling speculation that a rescue mission could be imminent.

Dozens of divers have arrived at the cave on Sunday morning.

Thai officials said Saturday they are worried that heavy monsoon rain could soon make the job even more difficult and they may need to quickly rescue the boys and the soccer coach from a partially flooded cave by helping them make risky dives to safety.

The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old became stranded when they went exploring in the cave after a practice game. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days.

Thai rescuers say trapped boys not yet ready to dive out

Thai rescuers say trapped boys not yet ready to dive out

MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — Thai rescuers said they will not immediately attempt an underwater evacuation of 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach who have been trapped in a cave for almost two weeks because they have not learned adequate diving skills in the short time since they were found.

However, the official in immediate charge of the operation, Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, indicated at a news conference Friday that if heavy rains started and appeared to be causing flooded areas in the cave to rise again, divers would try to take the boys out right away.

Thai officials had been suggesting in public statements that a quick underwater evacuation of the boys and their coach was needed because of the possibility that access to the cave could soon close again due to seasonal monsoon rains expected this weekend.

Earlier efforts to pump out water from the cave have been set back every time there has been a heavy rain.

Cave rescue specialists have cautioned against that approach except as a last resort, because of the dangers posed by inexperienced people using diving gear. The path out is considered especially complicated because of twists and turns in narrow flooded passages.

The suggestion that the trapped team might have to wait months inside until a safe way out is available — as was the case in 2010 with Chilean miners trapped underground — has met with little enthusiasm.

Authorities continue to pursue a third option, which is finding a shaft or drilling into the mountain in which the cave is located to find a sort of back door entrance.

The boys, 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach went exploring in the cave after a soccer game June 23. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days. The only way to reach them was by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.

Asked at his midnight news conference about bringing the boys out underwater, the governor replied, “Not today because they cannot dive at this time.”

Narongsak said the boys were still healthy and have practiced wearing diving masks and breathing in preparation for the diving possibility.

The rescue effort suffered a disheartening setback Friday with the death of a former Thai navy SEAL diving in the flooded passageways to deliver supplies, as authorities raced against worsening weather and lessening oxygen.

Professional cave divers from Europe are making the dangerous dives with a contingent of Thai navy SEALs. Two divers from the U.K. were the first to make it, on Monday, to the area where the boys and their coach took shelter. The divers are making frequent swims in and out.

The death of former Thai navy SEAL Saman Gunan underscored the risks of making the underwater journey. 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 to where the boys and others are sheltered, Thai SEAL commander Rear Adm. Arpakorn Yookongkaew said.

The strategically placed canisters allow divers to stay underwater longer during the five-hour trip to reach the stranded team.

While underwater, Saman passed out and efforts to resuscitate him failed, Arpakorn said. Some officials said his collapse was due to his oxygen supply running out, but the cause of his collapse was not confirmed.

“Despite this, we will continue until we accomplish our mission,” Arpakorn vowed.

Narongsak acknowledged that the air supply inside the cave is “a big problem.” Workers have been trying to run an oxygen line into the cave’s chambers.

“We are carrying oxygen canisters to where the boys are,” Narongsak said.

The dramatic rescue efforts and the boys’ plight have garnered international attention, perhaps most notably at soccer’s most widely watched event, the World Cup.

A diver who spent time with the boys said earlier the youngsters wanted to know the results of the matches. Players from teams including England and Sweden have recorded good luck video messages for the trapped boys, and FIFA has invited the 13 to the World Cup final should they be rescued in time and are healthy enough to travel.

Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind the Tesla automobile and the SpaceX rocket company, has said he would send engineers to help. One of his enterprises is Boring Co., which digs tunnels for advanced transport systems and has advanced ground-penetrating radar.

Musk also brainstormed on Twitter about possible technology for a safe evacuation, suggesting that an air tunnel constructed with soft tubing like a Bouncy Castle could provide flexible passage out.

France's Macron to attend World Cup game in Russia

France's Macron to attend World Cup game in Russia

French President Emmanuel Macron holds a soccer ball offered by Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg during a bi-lateral meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France July 6, 2018. Kamil Zihnioglu/Pool via Reuters

PARIS/MOSCOW (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron will attend the soccer World Cup in Russia, the Elysee said on Friday, after France beat Uruguay to book a place in the semi-finals.

Hosting the World Cup has allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to step up his diplomacy, securing a series of meetings with international guests on the sidelines of the tournament at a time when Russia is increasingly isolated on the global stage.

Macron said at an economic forum in St Petersburg in May that he would return to Russia if France reached the World Cup semi-finals, which the French team did earlier on Friday after defeating Uruguay 2-0.

Asked about Macron’s plans to visit Russia, a French Elysee official said on Friday: “Yes, he will go.”

The official said the Macron would travel only for the game, when France take on Belgium in St Petersburg on Tuesday, and that he had no other plans while in Russia.

The Kremlin said it welcomed Macron’s decision. “We are happy that the president of France is coming,” RIA news agency quoted spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Human rights groups have previously called for Western leaders to boycott the World Cup in Russia due to Moscow’s actions in Syria.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Jack Stubbs; editing by David Stamp)

Escape by diving 'not suitable' yet for boys in Thai cave: official

Escape by diving 'not suitable' yet for boys in Thai cave: official

The death of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan has underscored how dangerous the rescue attempt will be (AFP Photo/Panumas SANGUANWONG)

Mae Sai (Thailand) (AFP) – The 12 Thai boys trapped in a cave are not yet ready to make the complex dive out, the commander of the rescue mission said early Saturday, although forecast heavy rains could speed up their extraction attempt.

“The boys are not suitable…(they) cannot dive at this time,” Narongsak Osottanakorn, who is leading the operation, told reporters just after midnight in English.

“Now the problem is the children’s readiness to dive.”

Narongsak, a former governor of northern Chiang Rai province where the cave is located, said there were no plans to pull the boys and their coach out overnight but if monsoon rains fell and water rose in the Tham Luang cave over the coming days they could change their plans.

Thailand’s Navy SEAL commander earlier said rescuers may have “limited time” to attempt the tricky job of getting the group out, the first official admission waiting out the monsoon period in the cave may not be possible.

But the path to freedom is hugely dangerous for the boys, some of whom are unable to swim and have no scuba experience in an environment with low visibility that confounds even the most skilled.

An experienced former Thai Navy Seal assisting with the rescue died after running out of oxygen on Friday, raising fears that it was far from safe for the kids to make the attempt.

The round trip in and out of the cave to reach the boys can take a highly skilled diver about 11 hours.

But some involved have pointed out that the team has been in Tham Luang before they and their coach went in on June 23 and were trapped by floodwater, so the familiar terrain might help.

They have been receiving basic training in breathing through diving equipment after they were located on a muddy embankment deep inside the cave on Monday night, looking gaunt and weak.

The saga has captivated Thailand and the rest of the world as rescuers fought to pump out massive quantities of water to help make diving easier.

Though mild weather has held, light rains picked up again on Friday.

Parents of the trapped children have kept long vigils at the camp site, which has teemed with media and rescue workers.

But families have only been able to hear from their children through footage uploaded to the Thai Navy Seal Facebook page.

Messages of support for the “Wild Boars” team have come in from across the world, including from football stars in Russia for the World Cup.