Thailand cave rescue: Recap of afternoon's events as final mission officially underway

Thailand cave rescue: Recap of afternoon's events as final mission officially underway

The rescue of the last five members of the Wild Boar football team marks the end of an operation involving more than 1,000 rescue workers.

Thai Navy SEALS divers have already rescued eight of the boys.

In a day of high drama, the remaining five boys emerged in groups as evening approached, guided out by global divers and the SEALs, who have played an integral role throughout an unprecedented rescue mission.

A Thai well wisher puts a poster to pray for boys and their soccer coach who have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand Monday.

Highlighting the dangers, a former Thai navy SEAL died Friday while replenishing oxygen canisters laid at regular intervals along the route out of the sprawling Tham Luang cave.

A crack team of foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALS guided the boys out through almost four kilometres of sometimes submerged, pitch-dark channels. They had been trapped inside the Tham Luang cave for more than two weeks.

The operation began just after 10am on Tuesday as the first eight boys, freed in operations on Sunday and Monday, recuperated at a hospital in the nearest city, Chiang Rai.

The first 4 boys who were rescued the other day, aged between 12 and 16, are now allowed to eat normal food once again.

Authorities then struggled to devise a safe plan to get them out, mulling ideas such as drilling holes into the mountain or waiting months until monsoon rains ended and they could walk out.

Officials previously said they were battling a "war with water and time" to save the team - warning it could be up to four days before all 13 people are brought to safety.

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British divers found the group, huddled on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, on Monday last week.

Staff previously said their first assessments would focus on the boys' breathing and signs of hypothermia, as well as a potentially fatal lung infection known as cave disease.

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

He added that the boys were also wearing dive suits while being carried on stretchers and that their masks were removed by medical staff at the makeshift hospital.

They're all likely to stay the hospital for seven days due to their weakened immune systems, Chokedamrongsook said.

The search and rescue operation has riveted people both in Thailand and internationally, with journalists from across the globe traveling to this town along the border with Myanmar to report on the ordeal. Today's mission took about nine hours, two fewer than yesterday's.

Authorities have not confirmed the identity of the rescued boys and some of their parents said they had not been told who had been brought out.

So far eight of the boys have been rescued. "The equipment they brought to help us is not practical with our mission", the publication also quoted him as saying.

Before the rescue mission began, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk tweeted that he was designing an "escape pod" built from "the liquid oxygen transfer tube" of a SpaceX Falcon rocket that could be used as a submarine.

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