VOA News

At least five boys out of a group of 12 and their soccer coach have been rescued after being trapped in a flooded Thai cave for more than two weeks.

The first four boys, rescued by divers Sunday, were airlifted to a hospital in Chiang Rai, and the fifth, brought out of the cave Monday, is expected to join them after initial treatment in a field hospital near the Tham Luang caves. Unconfirmed reports say three more boys were rescued Monday.

The children’s families have not been told which boys have been rescued

Interior Minister Anupong Paojina said the same divers who participated in Sunday’s rescue are conducting the operation Monday because they are familiar with the cave conditions. The group is stranded about four kilometers inside the cave.

Loud cheers broke out when the acting governor of Thailand’s Chiang Rai state, Narongsak Osatanakorn, announced Sunday that the first boys had been brought out of the cave.

Following the initial rescues, the operation was paused for about 10 hours while divers replenished air tanks along the exit tunnel.

Thirteen international divers and five Thai Navy SEALs are involved in the rescue operation.

One volunteer, former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Gunan, died Friday while placing spare air tanks along the escape route. He ran out of air trying to swim out of the cave.

None of the trapped boys have ever been diving before and some do not even know how to swim. Two divers are helping each one make his way through very narrow tunnels that twist and turn, and filled with dark muddy water. It takes the divers about eight hours to get into the cave, reach the boys, and bring them back out.

The divers also brought out touching notes for the families written by some of the trapped boys.

One boy asked for a fried chicken dinner. Another reminded his parents not to forget his birthday party, while a third said he misses his entire family, but described himself as “happy.”

The anxious families say they have forgiven 25-year-old soccer coach Ekapol Chanthawong who led the boys on what was supposed to be an innocent adventure in cave exploring more than two weeks ago.

This Monday, July 2, 2018, photo released by Tham Luang Rescue Operation Center, shows the boys and their soccer coach as they were found in a partially flooded cave, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, Thailand.
This Monday, July 2, 2018, photo released by Tham Luang Rescue Operation Center, shows the boys and their soccer coach as they were found in a partially flooded cave, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Monsoon rains have started falling again, causing water levels inside the cave to rise, squeezing the boys in an ever shrinking space inside the cave, and causing oxygen levels to drop.

The experts say if the boys are not rescued over the next few days, they may have to wait inside the cave for months before the rains ease up and another rescue attempt is made.