Thai officials said rescue operations were underway again Monday, a day after the extraction of four of the 12 young Thai soccer players and their coach from the cave they have been trapped in for over two weeks.
Mission chief Narongsak Osatanakorn, the former governor of Chiang Rai province, said the mission went faster than they had expected. Conditions Monday, he added, were once again as perfect as could be hoped for to continue extracting the group of boys and their 25-year old coach. The rescue efforts restarted at 11 a.m. local time.
The group went missing after they went into the caves on June 23, and were trapped by rising waters. They were found more than a week later stuck on a small muddy patch deep in the cave’s network of chambers.
“We have confirmed that the weather is good, the water levels are good,” he said. “We are 100 percent ready.” The next group of boys, officials said, could be extracted as soon as Monday night local time. “We hope we’ll have good news in no time.”
The operation was paused Sunday after 7:50 p.m., when the last of the four boys had left the cave, so that rescuers could restock compressed air tanks and allow the team of international and Thai divers time to rest.
Four boys were rescued in dramatic scenes Sunday evening, and rushed by ambulance and helicopter to a nearby regional hospital.
They were each tethered to a diver, with another positioned behind them, as they made their way through the dark, murky waters that have filled the cave’s passageways. Each boy was fitted with a face mask connected to a compressed air tank. At especially narrow parts of the cave, the tanks had to be released from their backs and rolled through.
The four have not yet been able to see their parents, nor their friends, as they undergo medical examination. Officials say the boys are healthy, but have not provided details on their condition.
Authorities have also declined to provide the names and identities of the boys who were rescued. Friends of 13-year old Mongkol Boonpiem, however, say he was among those who were extracted. He was reported to be among the weakest in the group.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was scheduled to visit the site of the cave rescue Monday afternoon and was to speak to family members of the boys, who have been camped out there since their sons went missing.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Shibani Mahtani