Four of 12 Thai schoolboys who had been trapped in a flooded cave for over two weeks were saved on Sunday while rescue operations for the remaining nine, including their football coach, will resume on Monday, officials said.
Loud cheers greeted 13 foreign divers and five members of Thailand’s elite navy SEAL unit as they guided the four boys to safety through narrow and submerged passageways that claimed the life of a former Thai navy diver on Friday.
The mission to save the boys and their coach trapped in the Tham Luang Cave in northern Chiang Rai province started on Sunday amid monsoon rain in the cave area and warnings of fresh storm in the coming weeks.
The rescuers clarified that only four boys have left the cave for hospital and not six as reported by a member of their team. As night fell, rescue operation was called off.
Monday’s operations will involve 90 divers, said Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue operation, adding that the rescued boys have been sent to Chiang Rai Prachanukrua Hospital.
Expressing concern over weather warnings, Narongsak said rescue efforts will be slowed if there is more rainfall as efforts will then be diverted to pumping water off the cave.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after soccer practice on 23 June. They had gone on an adventure to explore the cave complex near the border with Myanmar and to celebrate a boy’s birthday there.