Four boys were rescued Monday from the flooded cave in Thailand, meaning divers have extricated eight of the 13 people who've been trapped deep inside the watery mountain prison for over two weeks.
Rescuers resumed their urgent mission to free the young soccer team and their coach at the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex Monday, after four boys were brought out alive Sunday.
Eyewitnesses told CNN that the rescue operation has now ceased for the day. Four boys and the coach still remain trapped.
Monday’s operation began at 11 a.m. local time (midnight ET), with the divers expected to emerge again at between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
However, shortly before 4:30 p.m. local time, multiple reports emerged that one boy had been brought out. He was placed on a stretcher and put in a waiting ambulance, according to a member of the rescue team who spoke to CNN.
An hour later, similar reports emerged that a sixth, seventh, and eighth boy had been rescued and were on their way to hospital, though Thai officials remain tight-lipped about the latest rescue efforts. Reports that the seventh and eight boys were rescued emerged soon after.
Some 16 days have passed since the group became trapped in the cave complex, and officials are eager to get them out before the start of the rainy season, which is expect to begin in earnest this week and could lead to rising water levels in the cave.
For several hours overnight, heavy monsoon rains lashed the mountainous Chiang Rai region where the rescue effort is taking place, but this did not change the underground water level.
“The factors are as good as yesterday,” Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command center coordinating the operation, said. “The rescue team is the same team, with a few replacements.”
Osatanakorn added that the strongest boys would be rescued first: “The perfect ones, the most-ready ones.”
The news that four boys were successfully rescued was greeted with huge celebrations in Thailand and around the world, but officials are continuing to warn that the remaining boys and their coach are in serious danger, especially as thunderstorms are predicted throughout the week.
To escape, the boys have to negotiate two miles of narrow, jagged and muddy cave passages, where they will walk, wade and possibly dive in order to get out.
While the mission to rescue the first four boys was a success, the dangers involved were laid bare last week when Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL, died when he ran out of oxygen on his way back from delivering tanks along the exit route.
What's the condition of the rescued boys?
The four boys who emerged Sunday were immediately taken to hospital, but on Monday Osatanakom said the group was strong and safe. “This morning they complained that they were hungry and they asked for Khao Pad Kraprow [chicken basil with rice],” Osatanakom said.
They have yet to see their parents, but authorities are considering reuniting the families Monday, though it will be through a glass door as the boys must remain in isolation for 48 hours.
Doctors are awaiting the results of blood tests to check if the children are free from serious infections, such as leptospirosis and meliodosis.
I heard Elon Musk was involved?
Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX founder, is indeed offering to help the rescue effort, but it is unclear if the attempt will have any practical benefit.
Musk has been in contact with divers and experts on the cave network in Thailand since last week and has been building an escape pod for the children that can be maneuvered through the narrow tunnels.
On Sunday Musk tweeted a video of the capsule being tested in a swimming pool in Los Angeles, along with a video of someone emerging from the capsule.
The “kid-size submarine” is now on its way to Thailand, though it remains to be seen if the officials there will actually use it.
Cover image: An ambulance leaves the Tham Luang cave area after divers evacuated some of the 12 boys and their coach trapped at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 8, 2018. (LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)