Eight boys have now been freed from a flooded cave in northern Thailand where they have been trapped for more than two weeks – but the remaining youngsters were forced to wait another night for freedom as the rescue process has been halted until the morning.
The exhausted boys were rushed to Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital by military helicopter and ambulances after a rescue team escorted them out of the Tham Luang caves and were said to be in a better condition than the four boys who were rescued on Sunday.
Four boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach still remain inside of the cave, with the Thai Public Broadcast Service confirming that the mission has been halted until Tuesday morning.
“(On Monday) we saved four more,” rescue command chief and outgoing Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osaththanakorn told The Australian, “We have prepared and know the plan for our next mission tomorrow and we will be 100 per cent successful.
“It is up to the diving team. Their plan is designed for rescuing four. For safety the best number is four.”
The first of Monday’s rescued Wild Boars players, whose identities have not yet been confirmed, was seen being carried out of the cave just before 5pm local time (8pm AEST). Boys number six and seven were brought out around an hour later, with boy number eight surfacing at about 7.40pm local time.
They were all seen being carried out on stretchers still wearing full-face diving oxygen masks, and cared for at a nearby field hospital before being airlifted to the Chiang Rai Pranukroh Hospital, where the four players rescued on Sunday are still recovering.
Thai Navy SEALs confirmed the good news in a post on their Facebook page, writing: “2 days, 8 Wild Boars. Hooyah.”
The rescued boys have not yet been able to reunite with their families as they must undergo blood and urine tests, as well as lung X-rays, to make sure they have not contracted any serious infections inside the cave such as melioidosis or leptospirosis, a potentially fatal bacterial disease.
The young soccer team, whose ages range between 11 and 16, have to travel around 4km through the cave’s flooded tunnel system. The perilous journey requires the boys – some of whom can’t swim – to dive underwater and pull themselves through the narrow tunnel using a rope.
The group of 13 became trapped on June 23 when flash floods made it impossible for them to exit the cave, after they walked inside following a training session.