4 boys from Thai soccer team rescued from flooded cave, next phase to begin in 'about' 10 hours

Four members of a Thai youth soccer team were rescued from a cave in northern Thailand on Sunday, leaving another eight boys and their soccer coach in the flooded cavern after 18 divers began a daring mission to bring home the group who have been trapped in the flooded cavern for more than two weeks.

The first boy rescued exited the cave 5:40 p.m. local time, followed by three of his team members shortly after, Chiang Rai provincial acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said in a Sunday night news conference. The boys traveled 0.62 miles underwater before they reached safety. 

They were taken to the hospital — three by helicopter and one by ambulance — once they were out of the cave. 

The conditions of the boys were not released, but the head of joint command center coordinating the search said he met with the children and described them as being in “perfect” health and called today’s mission the “best situation.”

One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after operation began to rescue the trapped youth soccer players and their coach, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Sunday, July 8, 2018.  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. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after operation began to rescue the trapped youth soccer players and their coach.  (AP)

"The operation went much better than expected," Narongsak said about the rescue, which began at 10 a.m. Sunday local time.

Officials estimated the first phase of the rescue would take 12 hours, giving the divers six hours into the cave and back.

Sunday’s mission, however, took 7 hours and 40 minutes.

FILE - In this July 3, 2018, file image taken from video provided by the Royal Thai Navy Facebook Page, the boys smile as Thai Navy SEAL medic help injured children inside a cave in Mae Sai, northern Thailand. The group was discovered July 2 after 10 days totally cut off from the outside world, and while they are for the most physically healthy, experts say the ordeal has likely taken a mental toll that could worsen the longer the situation lasts. (Royal Thai Navy Facebook Page via AP, File)

The 12 boys and soccer coach have been trapped in the northern Thailand cave for more than two weeks.  (AP)

The next phase of the rescue operation to free the eight boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach will begin in 10 to 20 hours to allow divers to replenish oxygen supplies and evaluate the plan in place. 

Rain may also delay the second phase. Heavy rain was soaking northern Thailand Sunday night after officials announced the mission was halted for the night. Incoming monsoon rains had been a concern because it could once again flood the cave and deplete oxygen levels. 

This undated photo released via the Thailand Navy SEAL Facebook page on Sunday, July 8, 2018, shows rescuers hands locked with a caption reading "We Thai and the international teams join forces to bring the young Wild Boars home" where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23 in a cave in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. The operation has begun to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach who will need to dive out of the flooded Thai cave where they have been trapped for more than two weeks, with officials saying Sunday morning that "today is D-Day. (Thailand Navy SEAL Facebook page via AP)

Thailand Navy SEAL posted on Facebook showing rescuers locking hands with a caption reading: "We Thai and the international teams join forces to bring the young Wild Boars home."  (Thailand Navy SEAL)

A group of 18 divers — 13 foreign and five Thai — began the operation to bring the boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach out of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province after the area saw mild weather and falling water levels in the cave. Ambulances and helicopters were on standby Sunday at the cave site to take anyone rescued from the cave to a hospital.

Rescue personnel work at the Tham Luang cave complex, as members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach have been found alive according to local media, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand July 4, 2018. Thai Navy Seal/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. - RC1634C2A510

The rescue operation began at 10 a.m. Sunday.  (Reuters)

“Today is a D-Day for our operation,” Narongsak said Saturday.

"I confirm that we are at war with water and time from the first day up to today," Narongsak added. "Finding the boys doesn't mean we've finished our mission. It is only a small battle we've won, but the war has not ended. The war ends when we win all three battles — the battles to search, rescue and send them home."

'DON'T BLAME YOURSELF,' PARENT OF TRAPPED THAI YOUTH WRITES TO BOYS' COACH

The start of the rescue mission brought in a sense of optimism over people in Thailand. In total, more than 50 international divers and 40 Thai divers have taken part of the rescue operation. Rescuers part of the Thai navy SEAL partaking in the operation posted on Facebook showing hands locked with a caption vowing to bring the boys home.

Rescue personnel work at the Tham Luang cave complex, as members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach have been found alive according to local media, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand July 4, 2018. Thai Navy Seal/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. - RC11E4793630

Eighteen divers entered the cave to rescue the 12 boys and their soccer coach on Sunday.  (Thai Navy SEAL)

"We, the Thai team and the international team, will bring the Wild Boars home,” referencing the boys’ soccer team name.

Though four boys have been rescued as of Sunday night, the mission to extract the rest could take two to four days depending on the conditions in the cave. The acting Chiang Rai governor had said rescuers couldn’t wait for perfect weather conditions because of several factors. 

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.

The divers began the operation at 10 a.m. Sunday local time to bring the boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach out of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province.

The Thai Navy said Saturday three navy SEALs, one a doctor, were with the boys and coach. The 13 were having health evaluations and rehabilitation, and were being taught diving skills. Food, electrolyte drinks, drinking water, medicine and oxygen canisters have been delivered to them.

In letters written by the boys released Saturday, the boys appeared calm and reassured their families they were “fine.”

Thai soldiers try to connect water pipes that will help bypass water from entering a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Saturday, July 7, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Rescuers have been working to drain the cave enough to bring the boys out.  (AP)

"Don't be worried, I miss everyone. Grandpa, Uncle, Mom, Dad and siblings, I love you all. I'm happy being here inside, the navy SEALs have taken good care. Love you all," wrote one of the boys named Mick.

President Trump tweeted the U.S. is "working very closely" with the Thai government during the rescue mission. 

"The U.S. is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety. Very brave and talented people!" Trump tweeted

Fox News’ Jeff Paul in Mae Sai, Thailand, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam