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Cave rescue: Operation resumes to bring out boys

By BBC | Published Mon, July 9th 2018 at 11:55, Updated July 9th 2018 at 12:19 GMT +3

Cave divers in Thailand have resumed the high-risk operation to extract the remaining eight boys and their football coach from a vast flooded cave system, the head of the mission has said.

Four boys were brought safely out of the cave on Sunday.

But the mission was paused overnight for air tanks to be replaced.

The boys became trapped in the cave on 23 June after heavy rains caused flooding, but were found alive last week by divers.

Rescuers decided to go ahead with the hazardous operation to free them because of fears that waters would rise again.

Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said it had resumed, with divers re-entering the cave at 11:00 local time (04:00 GMT).

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It was expected to end by 21:00, he said. "More personnel" were being used than on Sunday.

The names of the rescued boys have not been released out of respect for the families whose sons were still inside, and they have not been reunited with their own families, he added.

There had been concerns that heavy rain on Sunday and overnight might have raised water levels making the rescue more difficult.

But Mr Narongsak said: "The weather conditions and other environments today are as good as yesterday. We should hear good news again."

The BBC's Jonathan Head says this is a tightly controlled operation, and the identities of the boys who got out are being kept secret - it is not clear whether even their families have been told.

Rescuers took advantage of a break in the rain on Sunday to launch the mission earlier than some expected.

The first stage of the mission ran "smoothly" and the rescued boys were in "good health", according to the Thai authorities.

On Saturday, Mr Narongsak said that teams had a three to four-day window to carry out their operation.

How are the boys being moved?

A team of 90 expert divers - 40 from Thailand and 50 from overseas - has been working in the cave system.

They have been guiding the boys through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the Tham Luang cave system.

Getting to and from where the boys are has been an exhausting round trip, even for the experienced divers.

The process includes a mixture of walking, wading, climbing and diving along guide ropes already in place.

Wearing full-face masks, which are easier for novice divers than traditional respirators, each boy is being accompanied by two divers, who also carry his air supply.

The toughest part is about halfway out at a section named "T-Junction", which is so tight the divers have to take off their air tanks to get through.

Beyond that a cavern - called Chamber 3 - has been turned into a forward base for the divers.

There the boys can rest before making the last, easier walk out to the entrance. They are then taken to hospital in Chiang Rai.

In an indication of how dangerous the journey can be, a former Thai navy diver died in the caves on Friday. Saman Gunan was returning from a mission to provide the group with air tanks when he ran out of oxygen.

He lost consciousness and could not be revived. His colleagues said they would "not let the sacrifice of our friend go to waste".

How did the group get there?

The boys were found inside the cave by British rescue divers a week ago, about 4km (2.5 miles) from the cave mouth.

Aged between 11 and 17, they belong to a football club called the Wild Boars, and became trapped during an excursion with their coach.

It took nine days to find them in the underground network's dark depths.

Race against the rain

Officials had originally thought the group might have to stay where they were until the rainy season ended - and that could have meant months underground.

They had also been exploring whether they could drill down into the cave, as well as scouring the mountainside for another way in.

But with the rainy season just beginning, it has become clear that the flooding which originally trapped the boys will only get worse in the coming days.

Rescuers have been desperately pumping water out of the cave, and Mr Narongsak said on Sunday that water levels inside were at their lowest levels so far.


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