Amid jubilation, 4 more boys rescued from flooded Thai cave

Blanche Robertson
July 11, 2018

Emergency crews in Thailand brought a second group of four boys to safety on Monday, more than two weeks after 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped in a flooded cave network.

Officials have said storms forecast for Chiang Rai province in Thailand's far north had factored into their decision to go ahead with a complicated and risky plan for the boys aged between 11 and 16 and their coach to dive out of the cave.

The first boy to emerge Monday was seen on a stretcher just before 4:30 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. ET).

Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said at a press conference on Monday that the effort would involve the same divers. Sunday's mission took nine hours and plenty of energy, with each child being accompanied by two divers along the way. The team was initially planning to leave the boys in the cave until the water recedes but decided against it for fear of further flooding as more monsoon rains are expected in the coming days. The head of the Thai rescue operation told reporters that the mission Monday went smoothly, and has asked for three more days to rescue the remaining four boys and their coach from the Tham Luang caves.

The second day of the underground rescue attempt began at 11:00am local time (2:00pm AEST).

The ambulance drove toward a helipad, where a chopper was seen taking off shortly after to the cheers of the crowd below.

Thai officials have been tight-lipped about the rescue operation, and would not comment on how many people were removed Monday.

Sunday's rescue mission was described as a success by Thai officials.

A relative of one member of the soccer team said that the boys' families had agreed to remain at the cave until all of the boys and the coach are brought out. A massive global search operation was launched and it took 10 days to locate the boys, who had taken shelter on a dry slope deep in the complex. Two divers are helping each one make his way through very narrow tunnels that twist and turn, and filled with dark muddy water. Secondly, after a delay of several hours required them to replace the oxygen tanks along the path, the teams of divers are going back in, to bring more of them to the surface.

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The 12 young footballers and their coach became trapped in the Thiam Luang cave two weeks ago due to rising water after they entered the cave made it impossible for them to escape. But the rain largely held off on Monday.

The fifth boy was taken by helicopter to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital in the provincial capital Chiang Rai, while the sixth remained inside a medical tent before being moved.

"The children complained that they were hungry and wanted holy basil stir-fried rice".

"They (the four) will be kept away from their parents for a while because we are concerned about infections", Narongsak said.

Cave rescue experts have said they consider an underwater escape to be a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving.

The boys who were rescued on Sunday were strong and safe but needed to undergo detailed medical checks, he said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha plans to host a thank-you party for all the rescue teams, Mr Narongsak said.

All preparations, including replacing the oxygen cylinders positioned along the route out of the cave, take at least 20 hours, he said.

Authorities have not confirmed the identity of the first four boys freed.

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