Thai authorities said the second phase of the operation to rescue a youth soccer team trapped in a flooded cave was underway Monday, a day after four boys were pulled from the complex after more than two weeks underground.
Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osotanakorn said Monday's rescue operation was two hours shorter than the previous one after authorities reviewed the process to make it sharper.
On Sunday, teams of divers brought out four of the trapped boys but waited several hours before confirming their safe rescue. It is a race against the clock with heavy rain expected in coming days, which would again dangerously flood the tunnels with fast flowing, and rising, water.
The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach became stranded when they went exploring inside after a practice game.
Health experts with the rescued boys will be checking oxygen, malnutrition, dehydration, post-traumatic stress and other psychological effects, CNN reports. Whether they will succeed in getting all of them out will depend on Monday night's planning and preparation, Narongsak said.
Rescuers are also in a race against time, with weather forecasters warning heavy rain could hit the area on Monday afternoon and continue through the week.
Race against time for British divers trying to rescue boys from cave
He assured reporters that rescuers "won't bring them out until we find a totally safe way", the Bangkok Post reported . In footage that emerged after the boys were found by two British divers late Monday one asks to "go outside".
A source involved in the rescue mission who saw two of the four boys walk out of the cave told Reuters that they looked exhausted but healthy, adding that one even looked "vivacious and fresh".
The acting governor of Chiang Rai state, Narongsak Osatanakorn, said that divers are unsure whether all five can be rescued in one or more missions. In the week since the team was found alive, expert climbers, divers and Thai Navy Seals have mulled contingencies ranging from drilling an escape route through the mountain to waiting out the monsoon season and spending months inside the cave.
"The medical team is considering whether to let closest relative visit them", Osotthanakorn said.
Further three boys were rescued on Tuesday.
A source inside the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital where the first four boys are being kept said their condition was "not bad" but doctors were watching for signs of emerging conditions such as hypothermia.
Earlier in the day, the prime minister had visited Phuket to check on the search operation of tourists who were missing after a boat capsized off the resort island's coast on Thursday.
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At the hospital in Chiang Rai, green canvas sheets had been put up to block the entrance from view.
Can you imagine what the parents are thinking when they try to lie their heads down every night, knowing what their boys have been enduring for over two weeks?
The boys are said to be generally in good health but doctors are still evaluating whether they could have picked up any risky infections, such as the potentially lethal leptospirosis, while inside the damp cave for two weeks.
Having completed this section, the boys are then handed over to separate, specialist rescue teams, who help assist them through the remainder of the cave, much of which they can wade through.
Narongsak said he was not sure if the remaining five people will be extracted in one or more operations.
A Royal Thai Police helicopter carrying rescued schoolboys lands at a military airport in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 8, 2018.
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