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 on Sunday morning (local time), with expert divers entering the sprawling complex for the complicated and unsafe mission.
The cave is a karstic cave complex under the Doi Nang Non mountain range that lies on the border between Thailand and Myanmar.
Further rain would have heightened the risks in what has been called a "war with water and time" to save the team.
Their plight has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, as authorities have struggled to devise a plan to extract the boys and their coach through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways that in some places are completely flooded.
The rescue mission began on Sunday morning, almost a week since the 12 boys, aged 11-16, and their coach had been discovered on an embankment 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) inside the winding tunnels. Narongsak said the healthiest have been taken out first, and the next phase of the operation would start in 10-20 hours. Completing the mission could take up to 3 or 4 days, depending on the weather, rescue operators told Reuters.
"The boys are physically and mentally fit to come out".
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In the days since they were found in the cave, the boys have written notes to their families expressing optimism and encouraging them not to worry.
Rescue mission head Narongsak told reporters that today was "D-day" and that the first of the boys could emerge from the cave around 9 p.m. local time this evening.
Officials have said that conditions are as ideal as they can be for the rescue attempt, factoring in the weather and water and oxygen levels in the cave, as well as the boys' health. Operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said a total of 90 divers would be involved in the rescue mission, with 40 divers from Thailand, and 50 from overseas, including the United States, Australia, China, and Europe, according to the Washington Post. The operation was put on hold until Monday morning after oxygen levels in the cave dropped.
A total of 13 helicopters were on standby at the beginning of the rescue operation in case they were needed to take the boys and their coach to hospital quickly.
President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that US personnel were on the ground at the cave site assisting in the operation.
The letters were picked up by Thai navy SEALs who made an 11-hour journey back-and-forth to act as postal couriers.
In one, Pheerapat, nicknamed "Night", whose 16th birthday the group were celebrating in the cave when they became stuck on June 23, said: "I love you, Dad, Mum and my sister".