Navy Seals have confirmed a ninth boy has been rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand, with reports from the scene suggesting 11 people have been extracted.
The Seals said on their Facebook page that “the 9th Wild Boar was out of the cave at 4:06 p.m” on Tuesday, referring to the name of the trapped boys’ football team.
Twelve boys and their 25-year-old football coach were trapped by flooding in the cave more than two weeks ago.
Rescuers hope to complete their mission at the cave in Chiang Rai on Tuesday after rescuing four boys on each of the previous two days.
The third day of the intricate and high-risk mission aims to rescue the remaining boys and their coach and also bring out a medic and three Thai Navy Seals who have stayed with the teenagers in their dark refuge deep within the sprawling cave.
Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is heading the rescue effort, said that Tuesday’s operation involved 19 divers.
“We expect that if there is no unusual condition … the four boys, one coach, the doctor, and three Seals who have been with the boys since the first day will come out today,” he told a news conference to loud cheering.
Mr Nargonsak said this phase may take longer than the previous two rescue missions.
The first and longest mission took 11 hours.
Seven divers in the rescue team are from the UK, including Rick Stanton and John Volanthen who were the first to reach the group last week.
The British Cave Rescue Council has been posting updates throughout the operation.
Doctors were being cautious because of the infection risk and were isolating the boys in the hospital.
They did get a treat, however: bread with chocolate spread that they had requested.
The plight of the boys and their coach has riveted Thailand and much of the world – from the heart-sinking news they were missing to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found 10 days later by the British divers.
One of the boys appeared to be wearing a red replica England football shirt.
They were trapped in the Tham Luan Nang Non cave that became flooded by monsoon rains while they were exploring it after football practice on June 23.
Two of the boys possibly have a lung infection but all eight are generally “healthy and smiling”, he said.
“The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems,” Mr Jedsada said.
“Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them.”
It could be at least seven days before they can be released from hospital, Mr Jedsada told a news conference.
Family members have seen at least some of the boys from behind a glass isolation barrier, and Mr Jedsada said doctors may let the boys walk around their beds on Tuesday.
Mr Jedsada said they were uncertain what type of infections the boys could face “because we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave”.
If medical tests show no dangers, after another two days parents will be able to enter the isolation area dressed in sterilised clothing and staying two metres away from the boys, said Tosthep Bunthong, Chiang Rai public health chief.
The second group of four rescued on Monday are aged 12 to 14.
At least nine ambulances and a convoy of other vehicles were at the cave site on Tuesday.