A multinational rescue operation led to their being found safe on a dry ledge, but their extraction through narrow, still-flooded accessways has posed a risky challenge, especially amid concern for their health after being trapped without light or nourishment for so long.
Officials have said that conditions are as flawless 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. "We're still at war with water and time". A total of 23 people, including Thai and foreign divers, as well as Navy SEALs, are taking part in the rescue.
Narongsak said experts told him flooding from new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square meters (108 square feet). The first boy may be out of the cave by 9pm local time but the mission could take three days. "Finding the boys doesn't mean we've finished our mission".
'If we did not carry out the mission today we might not have been able to get them out.
Time is running out on a plan to teach the boys - some as young as 11 and not strong swimmers - to make a dive through dark, narrow passageways sometimes no more than 0.6- metre wide, that have challenged some of the world's leading cave divers. Get ready to take me out for fried chicken.
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Don't worry about me too much.
In one of the team's letters, posted to the Thai navy SEALs' Facebook page, a boy expressed his gratitude. Dad and mom love you.
"Don't worry about me, I'm safe." a boy nicknamed Pong said. "Although, don't forget to set up my birthday party", wrote another boy.
Another, of indistinct origin, asked their teacher not to give them a lot of homework.
To the boys' coach, Ekapol "Aek" Chanthawong, 25, the mother wrote, "We want you to know that no parents are angry with you at all, so don't you worry about that". "I promise to take the very best care of the kids", he said in a note given to divers on Friday.
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"Thank you for all the moral support and I apologise to the parents".
The boys have written letters to their family which is endearing at the same time filled with hope even during times of difficulty.
The group was found to be skinny, but in good health, and have received high-protein drinks as they are treated by the Underwater Demolition Assault Unit. "Also, air bells may develop along the way to create a series of two or more shorter dives instead of one long dive", Veni said, adding that "lower water levels means the force of the water is less".
"Some (of the shafts) are as deep as 400 metres. but they still can not find their location yet", Mr Narongsak told reporters, adding the mission lacked the technology "to pinpoint where they are staying".
The death on Friday of a former Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, underscored the risks of making the underwater journey.
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Other messages written on pages from a notebook saw the boys send messages of reassurance to their anxious relatives.