The third phase of the high-risk rescue operation for the boys and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand began Tuesday. Four boys were rescued Sunday and an additional four emerged Monday.
The head of the rescue mission says their plan is based on bringing four people out each day. That’s partly because it takes about 20 hours to re-set all of the oxygen tanks they use inside the cave during the rescues. So it is not clear if all five of those remaining inside will get out on Tuesday.
Rescuers have been taking the strongest boys out first. It may seem counterintuitive, but the reasoning for that was that officials want the boys who have the best chance of surviving to get through the escape route first.
The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach became stranded when they went exploring inside after a practice game. Monsoon flooding blocked off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days.
Two divers were assigned to each child to help them navigate the dangerous, narrow passageways.
On Friday, the death of a former Thai navy SEAL underscored the risks. The diver, the first fatality of the rescue effort, was working in a volunteer capacity and died on a mission to place oxygen canisters along the route.
Third phase of rescue mission is underway
The Thai official overseeing the rescue mission said Tuesday that the third rescue mission was underway, with 19 divers entering the cave. Officials were hoping the last four boys and their coach would all be rescued on Tuesday.
“All five will be brought out at the same time today,” Narongsak Osottanakorn said to cheers from reporters and rescue workers.
The plan is for those remaining members of the soccer team, and a doctor and three Thai navy SEALs also inside the cave, all to come out in this phase of the rescue operation.
Thai health officials: Rescued boys are in good health overall
All eight boys who have been rescued are in good health overall, Thai health officials said Tuesday. The children were given antibiotics, but there were no significant diseases or abnormalities have been found.
But Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, inspector general of the public health ministry, said preliminary blood checks indicated “all kids showed signs of infection,” according to Reuters. They boys will be in the hospital for a week.
Officials said the boys asked if they could attend the World Cup, but doctors told them they would have to watch it on television. They are expected to spend a week in the hospital.
Three ambulances seen entering cave site
Three ambulances along with cars, hummers and soldiers have been seen entering the cave site. Heavy rains lashed the northern Thai region late Monday and a steady downpour has continued Tuesday.
After divers brought out four of the boys Monday evening, authorities indicated the rescue operation would continue for a third day. But they also warned heavy rain could hamper their efforts.
The rescue missions take nearly half a day to complete. Monday’s mission took about nine hours, two fewer than Sunday’s.
Elon Musk says he has visited the cave rescue site
Elon Musk says he has visited the flooded cave in northern Thailand where a youth soccer team became trapped and has left a mini-submarine there for future use, but it seems the rescue team may not be able to put it to use.
The tech entrepreneur tweeted Tuesday morning he’d “Just returned from Cave 3,” referring to the rescuers’ command center inside the sprawling cave. He posted photos of the cave interior and a video showing people working their way through chest-high water.
Musk has offered a “kid-sized” submarine, named Wild Boar after the kids’ soccer team, to help in the rescue operation. He posted videos of the sub being tested in a swimming pool in California with simulated narrow passages like the cave.
Later on Tuesday, however, BBC News quoted head of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osotthanakorn, as saying “the equipment they brought to help us is not practical with our mission.”
“Even though their equipment is technologically sophisticated, it doesn’t fit with our mission to go in the cave,” Osotthanakorn, who is the regional governor, said according to the BBC.
How the rescue operation works
Here’s how the dangerous rescue mission works: Each of the boys wears a dive mask as they enter the murky water. The children can barely see anything in front of them.
They are led by a diver who is carrying their oxygen tank and guided by a rope. Another diver follows them from behind.
The entire journey covers about two-and-a-half miles through both deep water and steep climbs.
The biggest concern is a “pinch point” in the cave that is just 15 inches across.
In that area, the boys have to separate from the divers in order to fit through and reach a small patch of dry land before going back down into the water.
New images from inside the cave
CBS News obtained new images from inside the rescue operation showing the sheer scale of this effort. The images show rescuers charging through the flooded cave, but also exhausted and sleeping on the rocky floor.
An international army formed to first find and then save the lives of these 12 young boys and their coach.
Medical evaluations could take days
Officials say medical evaluations of the boys will likely take three to five days but could take as long as seven, CBS News correspondent Anna Werner reports from Chiang Rai.
The first issues doctors will be looking for are dehydration and malnutrition. During the two weeks the boys were in the cave, they didn’t have proper nutrition or exercise. After they were rescued, some of the boys asked for a Thai dish of meat with chili and basil.
The hospitalized boys are being kept in isolation, due to fear of infection.