- Divers enter flooded cave on third phase of rescue mission
- Tense wait as five yet to complete dangerous journey to surface
- Authorities hope to bring final four boys and coach out today
- Each person is being pulled through cave by expert divers
- Eight boys already rescued are ‘healthy and smiling’
- Twelve boys and coach trapped by floods a fortnight ago
- Meet the seven British divers playing leading roles in mission
Rescuers have launched a third mission in the flooded Thai cave as they attempt to save the remaining four boys and their football coach who have been trapped for 18 days.
As heavy rains threaten the perilous escape route and complicate an already dangerous operation, authorities aim to bring all five to the surface on Tuesday. One person was reportedly rescued at just after 10am BST (4pm local time) on Tuesday.
The hoped-for final chapter in an ordeal that has gripped the world comes after elite divers escorted eight young players of the Wild Boars football team out of the claustrophobic network of tunnels on Sunday and Monday.
The boys – aged 11 to 16 – and their 25-year-old coach, Ekaphol Chantawong, ventured into the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand on June 23 after football practice and got caught deep inside when heavy rains caused flooding that trapped them on a muddy ledge.
“I expect they will come out today, all of them,” Narongsak Osottanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province and head of the joint command centre coordinating the mission, said to cheers as he told a briefing that the final push had begun at about 10am local time (4am BST). He added that the journey out should be faster than on previous days
Rescuers are buoyed by the resilience of the eight boys who are recuperating in hospital and said to be hungry for bread and chocolate.
Jesada Chokdumrongsuk, deputy director-general of the Public Health Ministry, said the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food.
Two of them possibly have a lung infection but all eight are generally “healthy and smiling,” he said, adding: “All eight are in good health, no fever… everyone is in a good mental state.”
“The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems,” he said.
“Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them.”
It could be at least seven days before they can be released from hospital and their families are being kept at a distance because of fears of infection.