The high-risk rescue operation deep into a cave complex in northern Thailand has continued into a third day in an attempt to save the remaining four young boys and their soccer coach still trapped inside after the rescue of eight in the past two days.
Rescue workers resumed operations on Tuesday to save the remaining five before monsoon rains strike the area, which would potentially lead to the further flooding of the Tham Luang cave on the Myanmar border and complicate rescue efforts.
Twelve boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach became trapped in the cave on June 23 when they went exploring inside following soccer practice. Monsoon flooding blocked off their escape route. They were missing for nine days.
Four more of the boys were carried on stretchers out of the cave on Monday, bringing to eight the total number taken out so far after two highly complicated rescue missions in successive days.
The head of the rescue operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said on Monday that his team’s experience in the previous day’s rescue efforts had helped them bring out the second batch of survivors out of the cave two hours faster.
According to press reports, an international team of foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALs guided the boys during a nine-hour operation through nearly four kilometers of sometimes flooded channels where they had been stuck for more than two weeks.
Rescue organizers said they needed 20 hours to re-plan and replenish oxygen supplies to carry out the next round of the rescue mission.
Two divers were assigned to each child to help them navigate the dangerous, narrow passageways.
‘The rain god’s will’
The rescue pattern reportedly remains one of taking out four people at a time.
“It is up to the environment. If the rain god helps us, then we may be able to work fast. But if the rain god doesn’t help, then it could be challenging,” Narongsak said.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the cave to inspect the operation and was cited by Narongsak as saying that he did not want to see such an incident happen again on Thai soil.
The plight of the youth soccer team and their coach has drawn broad international attention, with divers, engineers, and medics, among others, flying in from across the globe to offer assistance.
People across Thailand have applauded the rescue operation in the past two days, including at the Mae Sai Prasitsart School, where six of the trapped boys are students.