An aide to the Thai Navy SEAL commander said that four boys were brought out of the flooded cave in northern Thailand yesterday and the ongoing rescue operation was over for the day.
The aide, Sitthichai Klangpattana, did not comment on the boys’ health or say how well the operation has gone.
A total of eight of the 12 boys have now been brought out of the treacherous cave system by divers, including four who were brought out on Sunday, when the rescue operation began.
The boys and their 25-year-old coach have been trapped for more than two weeks after heavy rains flooded the kilometers-long cave network made up of caverns connected by tight passages.
Four ambulances were yesterday seen leaving the area yesterday, but Thai officials have been tight-lipped about the rescue operation and would not comment on how many people were removed yesterday.
On Sunday, when the high-risk rescue operation to rescue the 12 boys and their coach began, teams of divers brought out four of the boys, but waited several hours before confirming their safe rescue.
Chiang Rai Acting Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn had said earlier yesterday that the second phase began at 11am and that authorities “hope to hear good news in the next few hours.”
“All conditions are still as good as they were yesterday,” Narongsak told a news conference. “The boys’ strength, the plan — today we are ready like before. And we will do it faster because we are afraid of the rain.”
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.
Workers have been laboring around the clock to pump water out of the cave, and authorities yesterday said that heavy downpours overnight did not raise water levels inside.
The four boys pulled from the cave on Sunday in an urgent and dangerous operation that involved them diving through the cave’s dark, tight and twisting passages were happy and in good health, authorities said.
“This morning they said they were hungry and wanted to eat khao pad grapao,” Narongsak said, referring to a Thai dish of meat fried with chili and basil and served over rice.
Still, the four were undergoing medical checks in a hospital in the provincial capital and were not yet allowed close contact with relatives due to fear of infections.
Relatives were able to see them through a glass partition, the governor said.
Thai Minister of the Interior Anupong Paojinda said early yesterday that the same group of expert divers who took part in Sunday’s rescue would return to extricate the others because they know the cave conditions and what to do.
He had said fresh air tanks needed to be laid along the underwater route.
Authorities have said extracting the entire team from the cave could take up to four days, but Sunday’s success raised hopes that it could be done faster.
Sunday’s mission involved 13 foreign divers and five Thai navy SEALs. Two divers accompanied each of the boys, all of whom have been learning to dive only since Monday last week, when searchers found them.
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