Final Rescue Mission For Trapped Thai Boys' Football Team Is Underway


Rescuers will guide the remaining five members of a youth football squad out from inside a flooded Thai cave on Tuesday, the chief of the painstaking operation to free them told reporters.

If all goes according to plan, the remaining boys, their coach, and the doctor and Navy SEAL divers who have been with them in the cave will be brought out today.

By Monday night, elite divers had managed to bring out eight members of the football team which included 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach.

Rescue organizers said they need 20 hours to replan and replenish oxygen supplies, with the next rescue mission expected to come some time on Tuesday afternoon, weather permitting.

Four boys were rescued from the underground caves on Sunday, bringing the total number of recovered children to eight.

"They are good physically and mentally", a health official said at a separate press conference from Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital.

Dr. Jedsada Chokedamrongsook, the permanent secretary of the Thai Health Ministry, said the first group of boys taken out on Sunday were aged 14 to 16. Some had infections but otherwise all of them were in good health.

"The kids are footballers, are strong and have high immunity", Jesada said when asked why they survived so long.

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However, unlike Sunday and Monday when only four were brought out each day due to logistical constraints, rescuers would try to extract all of the remaining five in one operation, Narongsak said.

Also emerging from the cave: a doctor who has treated the 13 stranded people after they were found last Monday, and several Thai navy SEAL divers who helped to carry out the complicated and precarious rescue operation.

Two of the boys had suspected lung infections but the four boys from the first group rescued were all walking around their beds.

"I hope today we will be faster or the same speed as yesterday", Narongsak said.

Among the ideas were drilling an escape route through the mountain, or leaving them for months until the monsoon season ended and the flooding subsided. The boys have no previous diving experience so the rescuers have been training them how to use a mask and breathe underwater via an oxygen tank.

"The screams started coming because the main pumps failed and the water started rising", one of the divers said.

"The lessons from the Tham Luang incident, when presented and learned will be useful to people across the world", said the province's former governor, Narongsak Ossothanakorn, whose daily media briefing throughout the 17 days of the mission had made him the face of the rescue operation.

"I'm happy for Thais all over the country", he said.