The second phase of operation will resume on Monday to rescue the remaining eight schoolboys and their coach who are still trapped in a flooded cave. Four schoolboys were rescued on Sunday in a daring and dangerous operation to save the children and their soccer coach who have been trapped underground for more than two weeks.
Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand’s elite Navy SEAL unit guided the boys to safety through narrow, submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver on Friday.
“Today was the best day, the best situation in terms of the weather, the health of the boys, our water management for our rescue effort,” the head of the rescue operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, told a news conference later.
The rescuers needed at least 10 hours to prepare for their next operation, involving about 90 divers in total, 50 of them from foreign countries, he said.
A helicopter flew the four boys to the nearby city of Chiang Rai, where they were taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Their ordeal has drawn huge media attention in Thailand and abroad, and getting the boys out safely could be a boost for Thailand’s junta ahead of a general election next year.
“Today is D-Day,” Narongsak had earlier told reporters.
Bursts of heavy monsoon rain soaked the Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province on Sunday and storms were expected in coming weeks, increasing the risks in what has been called a “war with water and time” to save the team.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after soccer practice on June 23, setting out on an adventure to explore the cave complex near the border with Myanmar and celebrate a boy’s birthday.
The rescue teams had rehearsed the plan for several days, Narongsak said, and had managed to drain the cave water level considerably, but needed to move fast.
(With inputs from Reuters)