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    Monday, 9 July 2018

    Eight Thai schoolboys who are football players rescued from flooded cave

    Navy SEALs who helped rescue another four boys from a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand today have celebrated their success.  
    Eight boys have now been saved after the Wild Boars football team became trapped two weeks ago, leaving just four teammates and their coach stuck underground for at least another day. 
    '2 days, 8 Wild Boars. Hooyah,' the Thai Navy SEALs said in a post on their official Facebook page, referring to the boys and their coach by the name of their football team.    
    The commander of the Thai forces in the area, meanwhile, said he needed only three more days and the team would be freed.
    The first of today's rescued Wild Boars players, whose identities have not yet been confirmed, were seen being carried out shortly before 5pm local time, a few hours after the mission entered its second day.
    Boys number six and seven were brought out a little over an hour later, with boy number eight spotted being taken out at about 7.40pm local time.
    They were all carried out on stretchers still wearing their full-face diving oxygen masks, and cared for at a nearby field hospital before being airlifted to the Chiang Rai Pranukroh Hospital, where the four players rescued on Sunday are recovering.  The four boys brought out on Monday are in better health than those extracted on Sunday, CNN reported. That is in line with a plan to bring out the weakest first which was devised by doctors on site.
    The five boys remaining in the cave and their coach are in 'good' health, the head of the rescue mission said.
    Despite the names and images of the four boys who were evacuated on Sunday being widely circulated in local and international media, officials have not confirmed their identities to parents, nor have families been told who was rescued today and who remains in the cave.
    The 12 youth team players and their 25-year-old coach went missing on June 23, having become trapped inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the northern Chiang Rai region by rising flood water.  
    The success of today's operation, which took nine hours - two hours less than Sunday - was later confirmed by the Navy SEALs involved in the operation. Pictures show the moment boy number six was loaded onto a military helicopter to be airlifted to hospital, surrounded by army medics. 
    The youngster can be seen wrapped in a silver space blanket to preserve what little body heat he has left after his arduous underwater journey out of the cave.
    The medical team, including a nurse, are all wearing face masks to protect their precious patient from an infection.
    The first rescue of today came shortly after the commander of the mission, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said 'oxygen bottles are ready... in the next few hours we will have good news'.
    He announced the operation had restarted four hours ahead of schedule on Monday morning.  The same 12 divers, including several from the UK with 'expertise in cave diving', who saved the first four on Sunday also conducted today's rescue operation. 
    Over several tense hours, seven crack British cave divers hailed as the masters of their profession escorted the schoolchildren through narrow, jagged tunnels.
    With them were five other international divers and five Thai navy SEALS, and more than 70 other divers in support roles, 50 of whom were foreigners.
    The boys were made to wear full-face masks, which enabled them to breathe freely, and were then 'essentially being pulled through the water', one British diving expert told the BBC, meaning that they have not needed to learn to dive nor swim.
    Before the rescue mission began, it was raised as a potential major issue that many of the 12 boys did not know how to swim. 
    Peter Dennis, from the British Cave Rescue Council, told the BBC that he thought the footballers 'would have been lightly sedated by a doctor who joined them in the chamber' to make sure they would not start panicking during the long journey out through the dark, water-filled tunnels. 
    Their ordeal has drawn huge media attention in Thailand and abroad, and getting the boys out safely could be a boost for Thailand’s ruling junta ahead of a general election next year.
    “Today is D-Day,” Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue mission, had earlier told reporters. Bursts of heavy monsoon rain soaked the Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province on Sunday and storms were expected in the coming weeks, increasing the risks in what has been called a “war with water and time” to save the team.
    The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach after soccer practice on June 23, setting out on an adventure to explore the cave complex near the border with Myanmar and celebrate a boy’s birthday.
    Rescuing them all could take three to four days and depended on the weather, an army commander involved in the mission had said earlier.
    The rescue teams had rehearsed the plan for several days, Narongsak said, and had managed to drain the water level in the cave considerably, but needed to move fast.
    “If we wait and the rain comes in the next few days we will be tired again from pumping and our readiness would drop. If that’s the case, then we have to reassess the situation,” he said.
    An Australian doctor who is part of the rescue mission checked the health of the boys on Saturday night and gave the all-clear for the operation to proceed.
    The boys were discovered by British divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen on Monday.
    Of the 13-strong foreign dive team - mainly from Europe - three were escorting the children, while the remainder were positioned along the dangerous first kilometre stretch, where the boys will have to navigate through submerged passageways in some places no more than two feet (0.6 metre) wide.
    Thirteen medical teams were stationed outside the cave - each with its own helicopter and ambulance - one for each of 13 boys and their coach.
    After an initial assessment at the site, the plan was to airlift the boys to a makeshift helipad close to the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, some 70 km away.
    A source at the hospital said that five emergency response doctors were awaiting the party and a further 30 doctors were on stand-by, adding that everyone was feeling tense.
    “The teams here are happy the boys are being rescued but also anxious about the severity of the boys’ conditions. We’re under a lot of pressure,” she said, declining to be named because she was not allowed to speak to the media.
    The area outside the hospital was cordoned off with police patrolling the area, said a Reuters reporter at the scene. Down the street, a loud speaker told vendors to “keep off the road” and to “not obstruct the transfer mission”.
    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the military junta that seized power in 2014, planned to visit the cave site on Monday, a government spokesman said.
    His visit with relatives and rescue officials last week was criticised by some Thais as opportunistic as his government faced pro-democracy protests in the capital Bangkok in recent months.
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