Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Rescue operation suspended after 8th boy freed from Thai cave

Rescue operation suspended after 8th boy freed from Thai cave

The third phase of the operation to begin in "20 hours".

Expert divers Sunday rescued four of 12 boys from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, as a unsafe and complicated operation unfolded amid heavy rain and the threat of rising water underground.

Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osotanakorn said Monday's rescue operation was two hours shorter than the previous one after authorities reviewed the process to make it sharper.

Even as a frantic rescue operation is underway to save a Thai soccer team stranded inside a flooded cave, American entrepreneur Elon Musk is testing a "tiny, kid-sized submarine" which could possibly aid in the rescue mission.

"Everything is all good - weather, water and the boys' conditions", he said, adding, "We will speed up [the operation]".

But the chances of monsoon rains sending torrents of water into the cave and making the rescue effort too risky is never far from the minds of everyone involved in the operation.

After his visit, he went to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital to visit the rescued boys.

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They spent nine days unaccounted for inside the cave, before British divers found the emaciated and dishevelled group huddling on a muddy bank above the flooding.

Authorities then struggled to determine the best way to save the "Wild Boars", with the group stuck on a shelf above the floodwaters in pitch darkness.

Monsoon flooding cut off their escape route and prevented rescuers from finding them for nearly 10 days.

But with oxygen levels inside dropping to risky lows and the prospect of heavy rains flooding the area completely, authorities decided they had to move quickly, and take the group out through the water-filled tunnels.

Dozens of foreign divers and other experts from around the world were brought in to help the rescue effort, working alongside Thai Navy Seals. "I've been involved in cave rescue for 30 years and I can not even think of one that was more complicated".

Some of the boys are not strong swimmers and none has diving experience.

Two more boys left the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex a short time later and were transferred to a medical facility on site, followed soon after by a fourth boy, according to the eyewitness, who is stationed at the entrance to the cave.

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Officials lavished praise on the Thai and global divers who, in pairs of two, executed the risky rescue mission, guiding the boys, who could barely swim and had no diving experience, through a treacherous 2½-mile-long escape route that twisted and turned through the cavern.

Each had to wear an oxygen mask to enable normal breathing, authorities said.

Workers have been laboring around the clock to pump water out of the cave, and authorities said Monday that heavy downpours overnight did not raise water levels inside.

There was no immediate word on their conditions.

The children's families have not been told which boys have been rescued. A nutritionist is monitoring their diet and has recommended that they eat nothing spicy or salty - despite the boys' cravings for spicy basil pork and rice, and grilled pork. They are still quarantined away from their parents, who have been able to see them through a glass window but not touch or hug them. In a letter of his own, coach Ekapol Chanthawong apologised to the boys' parents for the ordeal. More than 1000 journalists from across the world have descended on northern Thailand to report the story.

Sunday's surprisingly quick extraction of the initial batch of four, who were guided out of a network of flooded tunnels by elite divers, fuelled optimism that the others would also be quickly rescued.

"We've used all the oxygen", Osatanakorn told reporters.

More news: At Least Two Boys Have Been Rescued From Thai Cave

The families of Thai boys rescued after a harrowing two weeks trapped in a cave deep underground will be allowed to see them today, but will be told not to hug or kiss them until health checks are complete. 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.

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