MAE SAI, Thailand — A ninth boy has been rescued from a cave complex in Thailand where he had been trapped for over two weeks along with 11 other boys and their soccer coach. Divers have begun the third phase of the rescue and aim to bring out the remaining boys and their coach on Tuesday, the top rescue official said.
The eight boys brought out by divers over the previously are in "high spirits," a senior health official said. Doctors were being cautious because of the infection risk and were isolating the boys in the hospital. Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said Tuesday's rescue operation began just after 10 a.m. local time (11 p.m. ET Monday) and involves 19 divers. A medic and three Thai Navy SEALs who have stayed with the boys on a small, dry shelf deep in the flooded cave will also come out, he said."We expect that if there is no unusual condition ... the four boys, one coach, the doctor, and three SEALs who have been with the boys since the first day will come out today," he told a news conference to loud cheering. Nargonsak said this phase may take longer than the previous two rescue missions, which went on for up to 11 hours.
The plight of the boys and their coach has riveted Thailand and much of the world — from the heart-sinking news they were missing to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found 10 days later by a pair of British divers. They were trapped in the cave complex that became flooded by monsoon rains while they were exploring it after a soccer practice on June 23. At a news conference, Jesada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food, though they can't yet take the spicy food favored by many Thais. Two of the boys possibly have a lung infection but all eight are generally "healthy and smiling," he said.
"Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out," Jesada added. "But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them." It could be at least seven days before they can be released from hospital, according to Jesada. Family members have seen at least some of the boys from behind a glass isolation barrier, and Jesada said doctors may let the boys walk around their beds Tuesday. It was clear doctors were taking a cautious approach. Jesada said they were uncertain what type of infections the boys could face because "we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave."
The second group of four rescued on Monday are aged 12 to 14. Four ambulances and a convoy of other vehicles arrived at the cave site Tuesday morning to prepare for the third phase of the rescue. Heavy rains in the morning cleared during the day, leaving the teams operating outside the cave in stifling heat.