All Boys and Coach Rescued From Thai Cave on Third Day of Operation

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (Reuters) -
A group of ambulances travel to Tham Luang cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, Tuesday. (Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

The remaining four boys and their coach were rescued on Tuesday from a flooded Thai cave complex where 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped for more than two weeks.

Eight of the boys were brought out on stretchers over the first two days – four on Sunday and four on Monday.

Officials were not immediately available to comment on who had been brought out, and it was not clear what condition they were in.

The first eight boys rescued from a Thai cave complex on Sunday and Monday are in good health overall and some asked for bread with chocolate spread for breakfast, officials said on Tuesday as rescuers began a third and more challenging final mission to free the remaining five.

“At this moment [there are] no worrisome conditions, everyone is safe,” Jesada Chokdamrongsuk, Thailand’s Health Ministry’s permanent secretary, told reporters.

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

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

They are still being quarantined and kept separate from their parents because of the risk of infection and will likely be kept in hospital for a week to undergo tests, officials said.

Four more of the boys were carried on stretchers out of the labyrinthine Tham Luang cave on the Myanmar border at dusk on Monday.

The head of the operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, had said that a final operation would be “more challenging” because one more survivor would be brought out than in the previous two operations, along with the three Navy SEALs who had been accompanying them.

The rescuers have been learning from experience and were two hours faster in bringing the second batch of survivors out on Monday. However, scattered monsoon rains continued to risk percolating through the limestone cave walls to flood the tunnels with water.

“I hope today we will be faster or [have] the same speed as yesterday,” Narongsak had said.

A crack team of foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALS guided the boys during a nine-hour operation through nearly 2.5 miles of sometimes submerged, pitch-dark channels from where they had been trapped for more than a fortnight.

The plight of the boys and their coach has drawn international attention since they became trapped when they went into the cave after soccer practice on June 23.

Divers, engineers, medics and others have flown in from around the world to assist.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the cave to inspect the operation and was quoted by Narongsak as saying he didn’t want to see this kind of incident happen again on Thai soil.