Thai cave rescue operation suspended after four more boys freed

Thai cave rescue operation suspended after four more boys freed

It was not clear Monday morning whether divers had reentered the huge Tham Luang cave complex where the remaining nine people have been trapped for more than two weeks.

On Sunday, teams of divers brought out four of the trapped boys but waited several hours before confirming their safe rescue.

Emergency crews in Thailand brought a second group of four boys to safety on Monday, more than two weeks after 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped in a flooded cave network.

Thai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn described the first rescue as "our masterpiece work" and claimed the four rescued boys were in "perfect" health - despite earlier reports that one was being "closely monitored".

Thai soldiers walk out from the Tham Luang cave area as operations continue for the 8 boys and their coach trapped at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 9, 2018. Authorities have said extracting the entire team from the cave could take up to four days, but two straight days of success raised hopes that it could be done faster.

The soccer team had been trapped in the underground cave network since June 23, with flash floods causing water levels to rise, making it hard to get out.

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Rescuers are racing to beat the next downpour, which could further complicate efforts to remove the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach.

Kittichok Kankeaw, a teammate of Nattawut Takamsai, one of the trapped boys, said he would try to assist his friend to catch up at school.

The evacuation procedure calls for the boys to receive initial medical treatment there before rescuers take them through the remaining stretch of the cave to a field hospital outside, and then transport them by helicopter or ambulance to join their colleagues at the hospital.

Eight of the young Thai soccer players trapped in a partially flooded cave for more than two weeks have been rescued in a complex, daring and unsafe operation that has not yet been completed.

The rescue has been underway ever since and eight of the boys are now out thanks to a team of expert divers.

The rescue mission has been a huge operation, led by the Royal Thai Navy's SEAL unit, and supported by a cast of hundreds.

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The extreme danger of the rescue effort was underscored last week when a former Thai Navy SEAL, Samarn Poonan, died after he fell unconscious while placing oxygen tanks deep inside the cave.

The boys, who have not been identified, were kept away from visitors due to concerns about possible infection.

"The weather conditions and other environments today are as good as yesterday". Whether they will succeed in getting all of them out will depend on Monday night's planning and preparation, Narongsak said.

The boys will have to navigate through submerged passageways in some places no more than two feet (0.6 metre) wide.

Relatives said the boys had been inside the labyrinthine complex during the dry season.

Among those are U.S. military partners, British cave diving experts - including the two men who first located the boys a week ago - and rescue workers from Australia, China and other countries.

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