Rescuers begin 'challenging' final push to free last five from Thai cave

Richard William Stanton Robert Charles Harper and John Volanthen

Richard William Stanton Robert Charles Harper and John Volanthen Credit AFP

Monday's rescue mission, which saw four boys extracted before dusk and whisked to Chiang Rai hospital, took around nine hours.

Click through the gallery in the multimedia box above for a gallery of pics from the rescue effort. "But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them". "Mini-sub is ready if needed".

Then it will depend on the weather.

As of Tuesday morning, the last of the group have spent almost 16 days underground after being trapped by floodwaters in the cave in northern Thailand. "And it is up to the environment".

Alluding to that worry, the regional army commander offered his thanks Monday to the rain god Phra Pirun, imploring him to "keep showing us mercy".

"The prime minister said that this kind of event should never happen again on Thai soil", Narongsak said.

The "Wild Boars" soccer team, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach became trapped on June 23 while exploring the cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.

When asked about his first reaction as he saw the first set of boys who were rescued he admitted that he was "very scared". Highlighting the extreme dangers, a former Thai Navy SEAL died Friday while replenishing the oxygen canisters laid along the route to the boys' damp refuge.

Narongsak Osottanakorn told a news conference the latest rescue operation began at about 10:08 am local time.

A crack team of foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALS has been guiding the boys out through almost 4 km (2.5 miles) of sometimes submerged, pitch-dark channels. One diver was in front, holding an oxygen tank for the boy and another diver was behind ensuring the safety of the boy.

"The rescue has been enormous", said volunteer helper Somjit Saenset, 56.

They are reported missing after the boys do not come home that night. Some of the parents told Reuters they had not been told who had been rescued and that they were not allowed to visit the hospital.

Rescue chief Narongsak Osatanakorn said efforts were expected "quicker or at least as quick as yesterday".

Authorities will likely look for signs of Histoplasmosis, also known as "cave disease", an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings, according to the Mayo Clinic.

He said a medic and three SEALS in the cave, who've been looking after those trapped, will also come out. The extraction started on Sunday and eight of the children have been successfully brought out. Doctors, though, said they'll have to remain in the hospital for treatment for at least a week, insisting they can watch the big game on TV.

"I hope that in some way our words of support may help bring them a little peace and courage in these hard moments of uncertainty and concern".

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