Thai authorities told media today to leave a camp site near the cave where 12 boys and their coach have been trapped for more than two weeks so that “victims” could be helped, possibly signalling a long-awaited rescue effort to get them out.

The “Wild Boars” team has been confined to the Tham Luang cave since June 23, when they went in after practice and were hemmed in by monsoon floods.

Their plight has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, with more than 1,000 journalists registered to cover the rescue staking out a small patch of muddy land at the top of a hill near the entrance.

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“Everyone who is not involved with the operations has to get out of the area immediately,” police announced via loudspeaker at the site on Sunday morning. “From the situation assessment, we need to use the area to help victims.” They gave a deadline of 9:00 am to clear out, setting off a frenzy of moving and packing.

The order to leave the site came as irritation over the media presence grew, and a day after the rescue mission chief said conditions were perfect for the evacuation to begin.

It also came as fears mounted that expected rains could thwart the plan by reflooding the cave.

Officials did not clarify this morning whether the complex effort to dive the team out of the kilometres-long Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand had started.

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But the head of the mission, Narongsak Osottanakorn, yesterday suggested they would try in the coming days, even though the boys were weak and had no previous diving experience.

“Now and in the next three or four days, the conditions are perfect (for evacuation) in terms of the water, the weather and the boys’ health,” Narongsak told reporters.

Sustained heavy rains could make the water rise to the shelf where the children were sitting, reducing the area to “less than 10 square meters”, he added.