July 9, 2018 – A fifth boy was brought out this afternoon from a cave in Thailand where 12 boys and their soccer coach had been stranded for over two weeks, a military source said.
The boy emerged from Tham Luang Nang Non cave, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, after foreign and Thai divers resumed rescue work earlier in the day to extract the remaining eight boys and their soccer coach from deep in the cave.
He was then taken to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital by helicopter in the provincial capital Chiang Rai.
Rescue operation commander Narongsak Osottanakorn earlier told a press conference that the operation resumed at 11 a.m. after divers finished reinstalling oxygen tanks and doing rope checks along the exit route that includes flooded narrow passageways.
The former Chiang Rai governor declined to say how many people would be taken out Monday, but a Thai navy source said it was likely to be four or five.
The rescue team includes both divers who participated in Sunday’s operation and new divers to replace those exhausted from the previous day’s mission, Narongsak said.
He cited favorable factors for a successful rescue, including the fact that water levels in the cave remain stable even though rain started falling Monday.
“Everything is all good — weather, water and the boys’ conditions,” he said, adding, “We will speed up (the operation).”
There was scattered rain in the area of the cave on Sunday afternoon, and rainstorms are forecast for Monday afternoon through Thursday. Sustained rain could raise water levels inside the cave, potentially complicating the rescue operation.
Regarding the four boys rescued Sunday, Narongsak said they are doing well and some already asked for solid food.
Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters separately that the boys are in hospital and are fine but require thorough medical checks.
An army commander has said the extraction of all 13 could take up to four days.
In Sunday’s rescue, which involved about 90 personnel, the first boy left the cave at 5:40 p.m. and the fourth before 8 p.m., according to the navy. Two divers were allocated for each boy to guide them through the exit route, one in front and one behind.
The rescue of the first four boys has brought joy and relief to the families and friends of the 13, with one school friend of some of the boys telling media that he is very happy and thanking the rescue team for bringing his friends out.
A relative of one of the 12 boys, speaking to Kyodo News, compared Sunday’s rescue to a miracle, adding that she wishes to see the remaining boys and coach get out soon.
Authorities have not identified those rescued Sunday.
The 12 boys, ranging in age between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach, entered the cave on June 23 after soccer practice and were subsequently trapped by rising flood waters.
Amid a frantic search effort by hundreds of rescuers and support personnel, divers found the group sheltering on a dry patch about 4 kilometers from the entrance of the cave on July 2.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha was expected to visit the cave on Monday afternoon for the first time since the extraction operations began.