Eight of the 12 boys trapped with their soccer coach in a labyrinthine flooded cave complex in northern Thailand have been freed, authorities said on Monday, adding that the time for rescuing the others will depend on the weather.
The mission which started Sunday is a race against the clock with heavy rain expected this week which would again flood the tunnels with fast-flowing, rising water.
A crack team of foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALS guided four boys on Sunday and a further four on Monday through narrow, submerged channels from the muddy bank deep inside the Tham Luang cave where they had been stranded for more than two weeks.
“All four boys have arrived at hospital, all are safe,” Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue mission, told reporters of those freed on Monday.
Asked whether the remaining four “Wild Boars” team and their coach would come out at the same time in the next rescue effort, he said: “It depends on the plan… We have set the plan for four people so if they want to take five out (at the same time), then they need to change the plan.”
The operation on Monday went more smoothly than on Sunday and took two hours less as the practice became more refined, he said.
But he added rescuers may need more than 20 hours, to replan and replenish oxygen supplies, to be ready to mount the next mission.
Then it will depend on the weather. Heavy rain has struck the region intermittently over the last three days and further downpours could set back draining efforts at the cave.