Rescuers have now brought out a total of eight boys from a flooded cave where a youth soccer team and their coach have been trapped for more than two weeks, according to reports from witnesses on the ground.
Four boys were rescued on Monday, according to an aide to the Thai navy SEAL commander, and medical personnel were seen carrying four people out of the cave to waiting ambulances.
Reuters could not confirm the identity of those removed from Monday evening, and the chief of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osottanakorn, declined to comment, saying a news conference would be held later in the day.
The rescue operation got underway Sunday with the extraction of the first four boys, who are in good condition in hospital, according to officials.
Police officers block a road leading to Tham Luang cave complex in Thailand, where the rescue of schoolboys trapped in a flooded cave resumed on Friday. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)
The Wild Boars soccer team and their coach, 25, got trapped on June 23 when they set out to explore the vast cave complex after soccer practice, but a rain season downpour flooded the tunnels.
British divers found the 13, huddled on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, last Monday.
Video provided by rescuers shows the first four boys being stretchered out of Tham Luang cave complex, where they had been trapped since Jun 23. Note that this video was provided without sound. 0:40
The dangerous bid to rescue the boys — aged between 11 and 16 — resumed after a break to replenish oxygen supplies and make other preparations deep inside the cave complex.
Authorities have said the mission could take three or four days to complete. It is a race against the clock with heavy rain expected in coming days, which would again dangerously flood the tunnels with fast-flowing, and rising, water.
Classmates pray after their teacher announced some of the 12 schoolboys trapped inside a flooded cave had been rescued at Mae Sai Prasitsart school, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
The rescue began on Sunday.
Divers held the first four boys close to bring them out and each had to wear an oxygen mask, authorities said.
Onlookers watch and cheer during the rescue operation. (Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)
'War with water and time'
Heavy rain soaked the area overnight, increasing the risks in what has been called a "war with water and time" to save the boys. But the rain largely held off on Monday.
Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters Sunday that the first four boys rescued were in good health in hospital, but did not give details. Those boys' identities weren't confirmed by authorities.
Some of the boys' parents told Reuters they had not been told who had been rescued and they were not allowed to visit the hospital.
The death Friday of a former Thai navy SEAL underscored the risks. 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.
The body of Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy SEAL who died during an overnight mission, is carried during a repatriation and religious rites ceremony at Chiang Rai Airport in northern Thailand on Friday. (Associated Press)
There were several concerns that prompted authorities to move forward with the plan to dive the boys out. One was that it was unknown how safe and dry the area where they had taken shelter would stay as Thailand's rainy season, which lasts until at least late October, picks up pace.
The other, and perhaps more worrying, was that oxygen levels in the complex were falling close to dangerous levels.
'I'm hoping for good news'
Somboon Sompiangjai, 38, the father of one of the trapped boys, said parents were told by rescuers ahead of Sunday's operation the "strongest children" would be brought out first.
"We have not been told which child has been brought out…. We can't visit our boys in hospital because they need to be monitored for 48 hours," Somboon told Reuters. "I'm hoping for good news today," he said.
Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand's elite navy SEAL unit are the main team guiding the boys to safety through narrow, submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver on Friday.
Narongsak said more personnel were being used in the rescue on Monday.
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