Race against time as third phase of Thai cave rescue begins in persistent rain

The rescue mission has resumed to extract the final four boys and their soccer coach from the flooded cave in northern Thailand, in a race against time as bad weather closes in.

Three ambulances along with cars, hummers and soldiers have been seen entering the cave site where rescuers have been carrying out a high-stakes operation to bring out trapped members of a youth soccer team.

Head of the operation, Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, said the first 19 divers involved in the operation were sent in around 10am on Tuesday (local time). 

Rain had continued overnight but the governor’s initial hope was that the third stage of the rescue could be performed faster than the rescues on Sunday and Monday, when four boys were freed on each day.

“All five will be brought out at the same time today,” Osottanakorn said.

The rescue missions take nearly half a day to complete. Monday’s mission took about nine hours, two fewer than Sunday’s.

Eight boys have been rescued from the cave. Source: AP/Thai Navy

Today’s rescue ‘will be longer’: Thai Navy SEAL

The Thai Navy SEAL wrote on Facebook on Tuesday it’s expecting day three’s rescue operations to be longer than previous days. Five people are expected to be pulled from the caves.

“Hooyah, today is July 10, 2018,” it wrote.

It will be longer than previous ones. We will celebrate together finally.”

Source: Facebook/ Thai Navy SEAL

The post has more than 78,000 likes and has been flooded with comments from around the world wishing rescuers the best of luck in what’s hopefully the final day of rescue.

“Wishing you all a safe passage out,” one woman wrote.

“Thank you for your relentless efforts in finding and rescuing the 13 trapped. I have so much respect for everyone that’s involved in this rescue operation regardless of what role. The world still has so many beautiful, caring and selfless people like you. Thank you.”

Eight boys rescued in good health

So far eight of the boys have been rescued. The team’s 25-year-old coach and four boys are still deep inside the flooded and sprawling cave.

“All eight are in good health, no fever … everyone is in a good mental state,” Jesada Chokedamrongsuk, permanent secretary of the public health ministry, told reporters Tuesday at Chiang Rai hospital.

The boys underwent x-rays and blood tests and two who had signs of pneumonia were given antibiotics and are in a “normal state”, he said, adding they will all remain under observation in hospital for a week.

Thai nutritionists prepare foods at Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital, where eight boys of a soccer team are staying after they were rescued. Source: AAP
Rescue teams gather at a deep cave where a group of boys went missing in Chang Rai, northern Thailand. Source: Thai News Pix via AP)

Mini-sub ready if needed

Elon Musk says he has visited the flooded cave where the youth soccer team became trapped on June 23, and has left a mini-submarine there for future use.

The tech entrepreneur tweeted Tuesday morning he’d “Just returned from Cave 3” referring to the rescuers’ command centre inside the cave.

Musk has offered a “kid-sized” submarine, named Wild Boar after the kids’ soccer team, to help in the rescue operation.

But on Tuesday the rescue team politely declined his offer of help.

“Although his technology is good and sophisticated it’s not practical for this mission,” Governor Osatanakorn said.

Chiang Rai acting Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn told a news conference that Monday’s operation, which was the second day of a high-stakes rescue effort, took less time than Sunday’s because of the experience accumulated and more people involved.

He said Thailand’s prime minister, who visited the cave site Monday, has gone to visit all eight boys in the hospital

With AP and AFP

Police and military personnel use umbrellas to cover around a stretcher, presumably carrying a member of the trapped soccer team, near a helicopter and an ambulance at a military airport on Monday. Source: Getty Images