MAE SAI (AFP) – Rescuers working at a cave site in northern Thailand have brought four more boys out of the flooded cave system yesterday, bringing the total number rescued to eight since Sunday.
Only four boys and their coach remain trapped inside the Tham Luang cave complex as rescue operations were done for the day.
Rescue workers have been diving deep inside the cave complex for a second straight day in a treacherous bid to save a trapped group of young footballers, with the mission chief promising more “good news” after four of the 13 were brought out Sunday evening.
Sunday’s surprisingly quick extraction of the initial batch of four, who were guided out of a network of flooded tunnels by elite divers, fuelled optimism that the others would also be quickly rescued.
“All the equipment is ready. Oxygen bottles are ready,” rescue operations chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters on yesterday afternoon after announcing the second phase of the rescue bid had begun.
“In the next few hours we will have good news,” he said, adding the second phase of operation to rescue trapped boys and coach began at 11 am
In yesterday’s operation, rescuers brought the fifth boy out at 4:27 pm local time.
Authorities have been rushing to extract the boys, ages 11-16, and their coach from the cave as monsoon rains bore down on the mountainous region in far northern Chiang Rai province. Authorities said heavy downpours overnight did not raise water levels in the cave, where workers continue to pump water out.
The four boys pulled from the cave Sunday are still undergoing medical checks in a hospital and were not yet allowed close contact with relatives due to fear of infections, who were able to see them through a glass partition.
Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda had said yesterday that the same divers who took part in Sunday’s rescue were extricating the others as they know the cave conditions and what to do.
He had said fresh air tanks needed to be laid along the underwater route.
Thais have been fixated on the crisis, hoping desperately for the safe return of the 12 boys and their 25-year-old football coach, after they ventured into the cave complex after practice and became trapped by rising waters on June 23.
The saga has also dominated global headlines, with the team spending nine days unaccounted for inside the cave, before British divers found the emaciated and dishevelled group huddling on a muddy bank above the flooding.
Dozens of foreign divers and other experts from around the world were brought to help the rescue effort, working alongside Thai Navy SEALs.