Earlier reports said six boys had been freed, but this has not been confirmed.

Divers have been guiding the boys through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the Tham Luang cave system, where they have reportedly been able to walk the last part on foot.

Rescuers took advantage of a break in the rain to launch the mission much earlier than originally expected.

The first phase has also been conducted much faster than officials had predicted.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A helicopter was at the scene for medical evacuations

The group and their families had all given their agreement that they should be moved as soon as possible, said Mr Narongsak earlier.

What is happening at the cave?

A team of 90 expert divers - 40 from Thailand and 50 from overseas - has been working in the cave system.

The BBC's Dan Johnson, who is at the scene, said doctors went to assess the boys on Saturday and decided on a priority list, sending the weakest out first.

Getting to and from where the boys are has been an exhausting round trip even for the experienced divers.

The process includes a mixture of walking, wading, climbing and diving - all in complete darkness - along guide ropes already in place.

Wearing full-face masks, which are easier for novice divers than traditional respirators, each boy is being accompanied by two divers, who also carry their air supply.

The toughest section is about halfway out - at a section called "T-Junction", which is so tight the divers have to take off their air tanks to get through.

Beyond that a cavern - called Chamber 3 - has been turned into a forward base for the divers. There the boys can rest before making the last, easier walk out to the entrance. They are then taken to hospital in Chiang Rai town.

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Thai cave rescue: Four boys freed but rest must wait
Thai cave rescue: Four boys freed but rest must wait

Thai cave rescue: Four boys freed but rest must wait


The operation to free 12 boys and their coach from a cave in northern Thailand is running "smoothly", the head of the operation says.

Four boys have been brought above ground, rescuers say.

The mission has now been paused for at least 10 hours as their oxygen tanks need to be replaced.

Rescuers decided to go ahead with the hazardous operation on Sunday because of fears of rising waters.

The next phase would begin on Monday morning, after relaying "all of the air tanks and all systems along the way", Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said.

Earlier reports said six boys had been freed, but this has not been confirmed.

Divers have been guiding the boys through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the Tham Luang cave system, where they have reportedly been able to walk the last part on foot.

Rescuers took advantage of a break in the rain to launch the mission much earlier than originally expected.

The first phase has also been conducted much faster than officials had predicted.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A helicopter was at the scene for medical evacuations

The group and their families had all given their agreement that they should be moved as soon as possible, said Mr Narongsak earlier.

What is happening at the cave?

A team of 90 expert divers - 40 from Thailand and 50 from overseas - has been working in the cave system.

The BBC's Dan Johnson, who is at the scene, said doctors went to assess the boys on Saturday and decided on a priority list, sending the weakest out first.

Getting to and from where the boys are has been an exhausting round trip even for the experienced divers.

The process includes a mixture of walking, wading, climbing and diving - all in complete darkness - along guide ropes already in place.

Wearing full-face masks, which are easier for novice divers than traditional respirators, each boy is being accompanied by two divers, who also carry their air supply.

The toughest section is about halfway out - at a section called "T-Junction", which is so tight the divers have to take off their air tanks to get through.

Beyond that a cavern - called Chamber 3 - has been turned into a forward base for the divers. There the boys can rest before making the last, easier walk out to the entrance. They are then taken to hospital in Chiang Rai town.



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