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. The operation began at 10 a.m. local time and went faster than initially expected, but did not confirm which boys were rescued. The group and their families agreed that they should be moved as soon as possible, he said.
This means there are still eight boys to go, as well as their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong.
The boys urged relatives "not to worry" and asked for their favourite food once they were safely evacuated, in notes handed to divers.
Eighteen divers - 13 worldwide and five Thai - entered the cave around 10 a.m. local time Sunday.
The video also showed a Caucasian diver walking heavily up a muddy slope carrying a face mask and a small oxygen tank, wearing a backpack with his flippers dangling behind his legs.
"Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre coordinating the rescue, said Sunday morning was the most opportune time to launch the operation, citing the flawless weather, water and the kids' readiness, physical and mental".
An Australian doctor, who is part of today's rescue mission, checked the health of the boys last night and gave the all clear for the rescue to proceed, Mr Narongsak said.
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"Think about the responsibility of taking a kid under or beneath there and the conditions are really scary", rescuer Rafael Aroush said.
A dive expert now helping at the scene of the trapped soccer team in Thailand has given an insight into the conditions rescuers are fighting against to help the trapped boys.
The potential for rising water and the dwindling oxygen levels added to the urgency of getting the team out.
"We heard four boys are out but we do not know who they are. You don't need to be anxious about me".
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".
"I watch the news on my phone, my mom is watching on TV", said Chokumpompan, who graduated from the same school that six of the boys now attend, Mae Si Prasitsart School. I've told Yod to get ready to take me out for fried chicken.
Three ambulances carried the boys to safety, CNN reported.
Thai officials said Friday that oxygen levels inside the cave plummeted to a risky 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%.