Four more of the young boys were rescued Monday from a flooded cave-complex in Thailand. It's been a dramatic race against time to free the remaining soccer players and their coach who have been trapped more than two weeks, and the threat of monsoon rains is intensifying as more time passes.
The rescue began Sunday as the first four boys were guided to safety and then whisked away by emergency teams. While eight of the 12 boys have now been rescued, four more boys and their coach still remain trapped.
"The restrictive environment makes it challenging for even the most experienced diver divers much less the kids," said retired Navy SEAL Robert Stiles Harward, Jr.
Divers were forced to suspend rescue efforts late Sunday to replenish oxygen and assess the conditions. But rescue efforts are now back underway.
"I'm glad that a lot of people came to help. A lot of government agencies are helping us. I'm so happy," an aunt of one of those rescued boys said.
The rescue mission involves more than a dozen divers, including Thai Navy SEALs. They're making their way through a rocky maze using the buddy system to guide the boys out.
Each boy is surrounded by two divers with a line tethering each team together. This reduces the risk of getting lost in the dark and murky water.
The most challenging part of the journey to safety is said to be the first leg. The rest of it is on foot, walking through muddy areas and possibly floating in others.
With monsoon season underway, every hour that passes poses a new danger of increased flooding inside the cave. But authorities said Monday that heavy downpours in the last few hours in the mountainous region in far northern Chiang Rai province had not raised water levels for the time being.
"Today we are ready like before. And we will do it faster because we are afraid of the rain," said Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn.
Narongsak had dubbed Sunday to be “D-day.” The rescuers have been working around the clock to pump water out of the cave, but they fear a sudden deluge could undo all their progress and put the remaining 11-to-16-year-old boys in even greater danger.
He said 13 foreign divers and five Thai navy SEALs were taking part in the key leg of the rescue. The search and rescue operation has involved dozens of international experts and rescuers, including a U.S. military team.
President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday: “The U.S. is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety. Very brave and talented people!”