Eight boys now rescued from flooded cave in Thailand

Thai authorities said the second phase of the operation to rescue a youth soccer team trapped in a flooded cave was underway Monday, a day after four boys were pulled from the complex after more than two weeks underground.

Monday's operation took nine hours, two fewer than Sunday, with rescuers helped by the experience they have accumulated, Narongsak told a news conference punctuated with rounds of applause.

On Sunday, the first four boys were rescued and were taken to a hospital in Chiang Rai for evaluation. So far, divers have rescued four additional boys, which leaves four more and their soccer coach to go.

The mission which started Sunday is a race against the clock with heavy rain expected this week which would again flood the tunnels with fast-flowing, rising water.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after football practice on June 23.

"On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy Seals and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand", Trump tweeted.

Health experts with the rescued boys will be checking oxygen, malnutrition, dehydration, post-traumatic stress and other psychological effects, CNN reports.

Rescue workers at the cave complex, seen late Sunday. There was no word on the condition of the fifth boy brought out earlier on Monday. "We can't visit our boys in hospital because they need to be monitored for 48 hours", Somboon told Reuters.

Authorities have said the boys are being held close to divers and wear oxygen masks to enable normal breathing.

The rescued boys are being kept in sterilized isolation units at a nearby hospital, which prohibits physical contact, and their parents have not been told they're safe.

Following the successful evacuation on Sunday, rescue personnel assessed their performance and adjusted the plan for Monday, resulting in "a smooth, coordinated operation", deputy commander of the Third Army Maj Gen Chalongchai Chaiyakham told reporters.

"We're going to keep people on site until they get everyone out, the boys, the coach and the divers", Decker said.

His first suggestion involved feeding a long tube through the cave system that could then be inflated with air "like a bouncy castle", allowing the boys to climb through it to safety.

Lastly came Pipat Bodhu, 15, aka Nick, who was not even in the team but came along as a friend of the goalkeeper.

Medics appeared to remove one person on a stretcher but hid the person's identity behind multiple white umbrellas.

Thai officials had said Sunday that they were temporarily suspending the rescue effort so they could replenish oxygen supplies and other gear.

"I'm hoping for good news today", he said.

These divers have been working together to help guide the boys through the long, hard passages of the cave.

Relatives said the boys had been inside the labyrinthine complex during the dry season.

US Embassy Bangkok spokesman Steve Castonguay said that "The US will remain here to continue to support this operation until all the soccer players and their coach have been rescued".

  • Rogelio Becker