Bangkok: Four more boys were rescued on Monday by divers from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, where 12 of them and their soccer coach have been trapped for more than two weeks, authorities said.
Four boys were taken out from the Tham Luang cave complex during a successful first operation on Sunday, while four more were safely brought out on the second day of rescue operation. Now, five people, including coach Ekapol Chantawong remain inside the cave.
The identities of the rescued boys were not confirmed. The group got trapped in the cave on June 23 after heavy rains caused flooding. They were found alive last week by divers.
The Thai Navy Seals confirmed the rescue. The public television broadcast live video of medivac helicopters landing close to a hospital in the city of Chiang Rai. They were believed to be ferrying the rescued boys, the BBC reported.
The same divers who managed to rescue the first group of boys were involved in the second operation. Officials said that conditions were as good as they were on Sunday and that rain did not affect water levels inside the cave.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha delayed a planned visit to the site so as not to disrupt the rescue mission. He had been due at the site in the evening.
Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said physical contact of the rescued with their loved ones would be avoided until a risk of infection had passed, though contact through glass or at a distance might be allowed.
A team of 90 expert divers — 40 from Thailand and 50 from overseas — are working in the cave system. They are guiding the boys through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the cave system.
The process includes a mixture of walking, wading, climbing and diving along guide ropes already in place. Wearing full-face masks, easier for novice divers than traditional respirators, each boy was being accompanied by two divers.
The toughest part is about halfway out at a section named “T-Junction”, which is so tight the divers have to take off their air tanks to get through.
Beyond that a cavern — called Chamber 3 — has been turned into a forward base for the divers. The boys can rest there before making the last, easier walk out to the entrance.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, were found inside the cave by British rescue divers a week ago, about 4 km from the cave mouth. They belong to a football club called the Wild Boars and became trapped during an excursion with their coach.