Published: Mon, July 09, 2018
Sport | By Joe Gonzales

Four rescued Thai soccer players identified

Four rescued Thai soccer players identified

But the survival of those remaining in the cave is far from guaranteed with extraction efforts put on hold until Monday morning to allow rescue divers time to resupply.

On Saturday, Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osoththanakorn had told reporters a rescue attempt was expected in the next few days, but that the onset of monsoon rains could trigger an earlier operation.

Several media outlets reported the initial plan was to start with the strongest boys first, but the plan seems to have been reversed with the weakest boys rescued first, according to Thai media and the BBC.

Enough water has been pumped out of the cave that the boys will be able to walk through much of the escape route, but the team may have to swim underwater for periods.

The boys and their coach became stranded when they went exploring in the cave after a practice game June 23.

The trapped soccer team, which consists of boys aged 11-16, was found on Monday by a team of divers after a nine-day search.

Mr Osatanakorn said a one-mile passage from the cave entrance to the third chamber, a staging ground for the mission, was "mostly walkable", adding: 'Although there are some slightly hard parts [where] we have to bend or crawl, we can say that we can just walk through it. On Friday, a former Thai Navy SEAL died while returning from an operation to deliver oxygen tanks to the cave where the boys are located.

"Today is the D-day".

The rescue of the first six was a stunning victory in an operation Narongsak had earlier dubbed "Mission Impossible", and led to cautious optimism that the others would also be saved.

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Commanders paused the mission overnight to replenish oxygen supplies and give the rescuers a break. At the hospital, the team will be checked for airborne lung infections and bacterial infections that they could have developed after being in a damp cave environment for an extended period of time.

She said members of the 353rd U.S. Special Operations Group and U.S. military pararescue teams, survival specialists, divers and medical personnel are on the ground in support of the Thai-led worldwide rescue effort.

Mr Narongsak said that the rescue operation could take a number of days or be halted at any time. Ropes were installed to help guide the boys through the darkness.

Eight boys and the coach remain trapped, and the ordeal has been a closely watched news story around the globe.

Rescuers have conceded that evacuating the boys is a race against time with monsoon rains expected to undo days of around-the-clock drainage of the deluged cave.

More than 100 exploratory holes were also bored - some shallow, but the longest 400 metres deep - into the mountainside in an attempt to open a second evacuation route and avoid forcing the boys into the unsafe dive.

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk tweeted that a team from his rocket company SpaceX in Los Angeles is building a mini-sub to help with the rescue.

Helicopters were roaring overhead and cheering erupted at the media center following the official's remarks.

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