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Four boys rescued from Thai cave

Divers have rescued four boys from the youth soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand. CNN's David McKenzie has more.

Posted: Jul 9, 2018 9:42 AM
Updated: Jul 9, 2018 10:00 AM

At least four of 12 boys were rescued Sunday after being trapped for more than two weeks in a flooded cave network in northern Thailand.

Their soccer coach remains inside the cave with the other boys while rescuers finalize a plan to get the rest of them out.

It's not clear yet which boys managed to traverse the narrow, flooded tunnels to safety and who is left inside the cave.

The boys are from several schools in the Chiang Rai province of northern Thailand. In the days since their ordeal began, some details have emerged about their ages, favorite foods and soccer teams.

Here's what we know so far:

Peerapat Sompeangjai, 16

Peerapat Sompeangjai turned 16 on the day the group went missing, June 23.

On Sunday, his 17-year-old sister Phanphatsa told CNN she promised to make her brother another birthday cake -- and all his favorite foods -- on his safe return.

She added that their parents had slept at the cave every night since he went missing.

Ponchai Khamluang, 16

Ponchai Khamluang attends Ban Pa Yang School.

Pipat Bhodi, 15

Pipat Bhodi, a student at Ban San Sai School, also had his birthday on June 23, the day the boys went missing.

Prajak Sutham, 15

The eighth-grade student at Mae Sai Prasitsart School had his 15th birthday on July 1 while trapped inside the cave.

His aunt, Salisa Promjak, told CNN ahead of the rescue, "It's like I'm counting every second. I want to see his face, I want to see how he gets out, how they get him out. I am so happy."

The boy's grandmother, Kiawkham Chantaphoon, added, "Grandma loves you the most in the whole world. I miss you dearly. I thank every country, everyone (who is) helping the kids to get out.

"It's like a miracle," she said.

Ardoon Sam-aon, 14

Ardoon Sam-aon is an eighth-grade student at Ban Wiang Phan School.

Akarat Wongsukchan, 14

Akarat Wongsukchan is a student at Darunratwitthaya School.

Natthawut Takumsong, 14

Natthawut Takumsong is a grade-eight student at Mae Sai Prasitsart school. His family told CNN Sunday they were praying for his safe return, and the first thing they'll do when he's out is throw a birthday party for him.

His grandmother, Wankaew Pakhumma, has been praying at a small shrine in their home every day for his safe return. "I worry (that) the officials (won't) get them out safely."

Panumas Saeng-Dee, 13

Panumas Saeng-Dee is also a student at Mae Sai Prasitsart School.

Duangphet Promthep, 13

Duangphet Promthep also attends Mae Sai Prasitsart School.

Somjai Jaiwong, 13

Somjai Jaiwong attends Mae Sai Prasitsart School.

Mongkol Boonpiam, 13

Mongkol Boonpiam is a grade-seven student at Ban Pa Muat School.

Chanin Viboonrungruang, 11

The youngest of the group is Chanin Viboonrungruang, who is in his final year at Anubanmaesai primary school in Mae Sai.

In a letter to his parents posted on the Thai SEALs Facebook page, Chanin who's known to his friends as Titun, told his parents, "Don't worry about me. I am fine. Please tell Pee Yod (a female relative) to take me to eat fried chicken. Love you all," he said.

The boy's father, Tanawat Viboonrungruang, explained to CNN that his son was referring to a promise made to the boy by his aunt go to the local KFC.

"I felt better as my son said that he was fine and strong," he said. "I felt relieved after I had been worried about my son that he would be exhausted. I felt better. But I don't know whether is tired or not."

Viboonrungruang, who has spent most of the past few days keeping vigil at the entrance of the cave, described his son as a friendly, lively, popular boy who dreams of becoming a professional soccer player and is a supporter of both the Arsenal and Barcelona teams.

"He's been playing football since he was young, and he started it just at age 8 or 9," he said.

He said Titun had said he was going training at a local soccer field on the day he went missing, but didn't mention the trip to the cave.

"I called him on the 23rd of June at around 3 p.m., but I couldn't reach him or the coach," he said.

"I wasn't able to contact him. So I tried to contact him again at about 6 or 7 pm but I couldn't. I knew that they were trapped at around 11 p.m."

Akkapol Chanthawong, 25, coach

Ahead of the rescue, the boys' coach, who is also known as Eak, sent a letter to parents apologizing for their boys' ordeal.

"Dear all the parents,

All the kids are fine. There are people taking really good care of them. I promise I will take care of the children the best I can. Thank you for your support. I'm really sorry to the parents," he wrote.

The parents replied:

"We, as your soccer team members' parents believe in you and your spirit that you've been taking a good care of our kids. We just want you to know that this is not your fault. We all here don't blame you and just want you to not to blame yourself. We all understand all the situations that have happened and we are here supporting you. We appreciate all your loving support and care to our kids. We are waiting for the news that you all get back out of the cave safely soon.

"Your aunt is also here waiting for you at the entrance."

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