The Thai official overseeing the effort to rescue members of a teen soccer team trapped in a flooded cave says a third rescue operation has begun Tuesday and aims to bring out the remaining four boys and their coach.
Rescuers hope to complete their mission Tuesday after rescuing four boys on each of the previous two days.
The "Wild Boars" team became trapped on June 23 when they set out to explore the cave after soccer practice and rains flooded the tunnels. It raised hope and excitement that the remaining two - including the team's 25-year-old coach - could soon follow.
As the minutes stretched into hours under the hot sun in this corner of north-western Thailand bordering Myanmar, hopes were rising that news of a third successful rescue by the so-called "all-star" team of Thai and global divers - which included as many as eight Australians in support roles - was imminent. Officials are constantly pumping water out of the caves, and Sunday gave the rescue crews the best chance of recovering more survivors after days of decent weather and pumping reduced flood levels.
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Thai authorities revealed that the first phase was executed "smoothly" and the boys who had been evacuated were in "good health".
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The boys are expected to remain hospitalized for at least a week, meaning they won't be able to take up FIFA's invitation to attend the World Cup final in Russian Federation.
Their families are being kept at a distance because of fears of infection and the emaciated-looking boys were eating a rice-based porridge because they are still too weak to take regular food, authorities said. The diver, the first fatality of the rescue effort, was working in a volunteer capacity and died on a mission to place air canisters along the passage to where the boys are, necessary for divers to safely travel the five- to six-hour route. Two are being treated for a "minor" lung infection. Each of the rescued boys has been guided through the dark winding cave by two pairs of divers.
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Divers lead four of the boys out of the cave as night falls, sending them to the hospital. After they were found on July 2, officials cautioned it could take some time to get them out, but with heavy rain forecast to hit the region authorities chose to act.
Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food.
"I insist that all 13 will be safe and sound", Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said at a news conference on Monday.
The eight boys brought out on Sunday and Monday were in good health overall and some asked for chocolate bread for breakfast, officials said.
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The emergence of the second batch of four boys last evening was greeted with a simple "Hooyah" by the SEAL team on their Facebook page, an exclamation that lit up Thai social media.