Divers re-enter cave as Thai rescue restarts

Florence Fletcher
July 10, 2018

Rescuers in Thailand retrieved four of the 12 boys who have been trapped with their soccer coach in a cave for two weeks in the first phase of an operation that could take days.

He did not say how many boys the team hoped to bring out on Monday.

The boys became trapped in the cave on 23 June after heavy rains caused flooding, but were found alive last week by divers. "We should hear good news again", Narongsak said. If the rain god helps us, then we may be able to work fast.

Authorities have been rushing to extract the boys, ages 11-16, and their coach from the cave as the annual monsoon bears down on the mountainous region in far northern Chiang Rai province.

It was not immediately clear Monday how the overnight rains had impacted water levels inside the flooded cave.

The rescue has been underway ever since and eight of the boys are now out thanks to a team of expert divers.

The chief the rescue mission said they are being kept apart from relatives because of infection concerns, Reuters reports.

Thirteen medical teams were stationed outside the cave - each with its own helicopter and ambulance - one for each of 12 boys and their coach.

Extracting everyone could take up to four days, but the initial success has raised hopes that could be done.

The same divers who took part in Sunday's rescue of four boys trapped in a flooded cave will also conduct the next operation as they know the cave conditions.

Officials have yet to confirm the identities of the four boys freed.

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Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the military junta that seized power in 2014, planned to visit the cave site on Monday, a government spokesman said.

Rescuers have been unable to extend a hose pumping oxygen all the way to where the boys are, but have brought them some oxygen tanks.

"The operation went much better than expected,"Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said at a news conference after the first four boys were rescued, adding that the healthiest were taken out first".

To date, each rescued boy has been escorted through the labyrinthine cave by two divers, each of them holding an oxygen tank that feeds to the survivor's mask.

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

He added that the divers were the "same multinational team" that rescued the four boys on Sunday. "So to get them back to their baseline - which would require food, water, vitamins, all the nutrients that we normally have, plus reasonable exercise of muscle tone - would take a matter of weeks".

Somboon Sompiangjai, 38, the father of one of the trapped boys, said parents were told by rescuers ahead of Sunday's operation the "strongest children" would be brought out first.

But with oxygen levels inside dropping to risky lows and the prospect of heavy rains flooding the area completely, authorities decided they had to move quickly, and take the group out through the water-filled tunnels.

The world is watching as the cave rescue in Thailand continues. The search and rescue operation has involved dozens of global experts and rescuers, including a US military team.

Even tech billionaire Elon Musk has been lending a helping hand.

Musk shared a video demonstrating a "tiny, kid-size submarine" being used to transport a person across a pool.

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