The families of Thai boys rescued after a harrowing two weeks trapped in a cave deep underground will be allowed to see them today, but will be told not to hug or kiss them until health checks are complete.
Families of the four boys who were rescued on Sunday evening have not yet seen them since they were rushed to the Chiangrai Prachanukroh hospital, about 60 miles from the cave.
The boys are said to be generally in good health but doctors are still evaluating whether they could have picked up any dangerous infections, such as the potentially lethal leptospirosis, while inside the damp cave for two weeks.
Chiang Rai health officials have told the Thai media that the families of the children can see them later tonight but “no hugging, no kissing” until their blood results are known.
Medical workers’ first assessments will focus on the boys’ breathing, signs of hypothermia and an airborne lung infection known as ‘cave disease’ which is caused by bat and bird droppings and can be fatal if it is untreated and spreads to other parts of the body.
Unconfirmed reports that the boys’ coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, 25, was among the first four to be evacuated because of the poor state of his health, were dismissed on Monday. He is still believed to be one of the nine inside the cave
Rescue workers dived deep inside the flooded Thai cave for a second straight day Monday in a treacherous bid to save a trapped group of young footballers, with the mission chief promising more “good news” for the remaining nine stuck inside.
Sunday’s surprisingly quick extraction of the initial batch of four, who were guided out of a network of flooded tunnels by elite divers, fuelled optimism that the others would also be quickly rescued.
“All the equipment is ready. Oxygen bottles are ready,” rescue operations chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters on Monday afternoon after announcing the second phase of the rescue bid had begun.
“In the next few hours we will have good news.”
Still, for the relatives of the Wild Boar team members, an agonising wait continued.
“I am still waiting here at the cave, keeping my fingers crossed to see whether my son will be one of those to come out today,” Supaluk Sompiengjai, mother of Pheeraphat – known by his nickname “Night” – told AFP on Monday morning.
“We heard four boys are out but we do not know who they are. Many parents are still here waiting. None of us has been informed of anything.”
And although the four had been rescued, there were concerns they may have contracted an illness while in the cave, Narongsak said on Monday.
They (the four) will be kept away from their parents for a while because we are concerned about infections,” Narongsak said.
And rain could still re-emerge as a threat, particularly if there are complications that could delay the extraction further.
Weather forecasters warned heavy rain could hit the area on Monday afternoon and continue through the week.
Authorities have repeatedly said the rain could re-flood crucial parts of the cave complex that have been drained and make the escape route much harder or even impossible to navigate.