Thai cave rescue resumes to free eight boys and coach still trapped

Leroy Wright
July 11, 2018

Four more boys were brought out Monday from a deep cave in northern Thailand where four others were rescued on Sunday, Thai navy SEALs announced, with a local official saying the plan is to extract the remaining four boys and their soccer coach on Tuesday.

With oxygen levels dropping to 30 percent and approaching monsoon rains, authorities chose to rescue the boys, Chiang Rai Province Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said at a press conference. But authorities have said it remains unclear how long the boys would have to remain inside.

The evacuation came several hours after 13 global cave diving experts and five Thai Navy SEALs entered the cave in an attempt to get the boys out one by one as they navigate through flooded and narrow tunnels. The interior minister Anupong Paojinda was noted saying that officials are meeting on Monday morning to plan the next stage of the operation in order to rescue the remaining 9 students from the cave.

The team is trapped more than four kilometres from the mouth of a cave, and a series of obstacles - including low-visibility water, extremely narrow passages and the boys' inability to swim - stand between them and freedom.

While the governor would not confirm the identities of the four boys, he said the first one emerged at 5:40 p.m. local time (6.40 a.m. ET), followed by the second boy 10 minutes later.

Flooding cut off their escape but they were found by British cave diving specialists nine days later, dishevelled and hungry, on a ledge several miles inside the cave. Thai navy SEALs say four of the 12 soccer team members are out of the cave.

The only way to bring them out is by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, as well as oxygen-depleted air. But rescuers were anxious that that would not be enough: on Friday, former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan died from lack of air within the cave complex. It's uncertain whether this submarine will be deployed in the next mission, but the next strategy meeting for rescue workers is scheduled for Sunday night.

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The rescue teams now need at least 10 hours to prepare for their next phase of the operation, involving about 90 divers in all, 50 of them from foreign countries, he said.

"We heard four boys are out but we do not know who they are".

Applause erupted as Mr Narongsak said he had met the children and their health is "perfect". "We have tried all possible ways to get the boys out, but sometimes we can't win over nature".

Rescue operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters Sunday night all four were in stable condition.

Fox News reported that rescue operators believed the first phase of the operation would take about 12 hours. Two hours later, two more boys were extracted 10 minutes apart.

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

But Narongsak said earlier that mild weather and falling water levels in recent days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation. It was raining Sunday, but Narongsak was optimistic that the rescue could continue Monday.

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