Pictures from Tuesday: The unprecedented mission to evacuate the "Wild Boar" football team and their coach from a flooded Thai cave entered its end game on Tuesday as rescuers said they will guide the remaining four boys and their coach to freedom.
An elite team of Thai Navy SEALs and foreign rescue divers managed to bring another four boys out of a flooded cave system near the Thai-Myanmar border Monday, leaving five more to be taken out through a labyrinth of tight passages. He said experience gained during the successful extractions in the preceding two days would allow them to work faster and more efficiently.
Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn says the rescue mission began at 10.08am and involves 19 divers.
Officials lavished praise on the Thai and worldwide divers who, in pairs of two, executed the unsafe rescue mission, guiding the boys, who could barely swim and had no diving experience, through a treacherous 4-kilometer-long (2 1/2-mile) escape route that twisted and turned through the cavern.
The "Wild Boars", aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach were trapped on June 23 while exploring a cave complex in the province of Chiang Rai when a downpour flooded the passageways.
They spent nine harrowing days trapped in darkness until two British divers found them, looking gaunt but otherwise offering smiles to the divers and appearing to be in remarkably good spirits.
A Thai health official said earlier Wednesday that the soccer teammates had lost weight during their two-week ordeal, but had water while they were trapped and remained in good health.
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Parents of the first group of four were able to meet their children through a glass partition, Jesada said.
Dr Jesada said that when the first four arrived they went through all the necessary health checks including blood tests, lung X-rays, heart, eye and mental tests.
The second group of 4 that were pulled out afterwards are aged between 12 and 14.
Eight boys have now been rescued from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand after a youth soccer team intending to write their names on the wall of the tourist attraction was driven miles into the labyrinth by sudden monsoon rains that seasonally close and flood the caverns. However, senior health official Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk said all of them are "healthy and smiling".
They are all likely to stay in hospital for seven days due to their weakened immune systems.
The first four boys were removed from the cave Sunday. Heavy rainfall and flooding near the cave prevented rescuers from reaching them for nearly 10 days. He said he left the equipment there in case rescuers could use it in the future.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the cave to inspect the operation and was quoted by Narongsak as saying he didn't want to see this kind of incident happen again on Thai soil.