Rescuers prepare to move rest of boys, coach from Thai cave

Fighting time, high waters, divers prepare to rescue second group of Thai boys from cave

Divers have rescued four more boys from a vast cave system in northern Thailand on the second day of a challenging mission, as the first four rescued boys recover in hospital.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said the same divers who took part in Sunday's rescue will return to extricate the others as they know the cave conditions and what to do.

Thai authorities say four more boys have arrived safely at the hospital following their rescue after having been trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks.

The risky bid to rescue the boys - aged between 11 and 16 - resumed after a break on Sunday night to replenish oxygen supplies and make other preparations deep inside the cave complex in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai province. An ambulance was seen leaving the scene immediately afterward early Monday evening.

Officials said late Sunday they'd need to pause the operation for at least 10 hours to fill oxygen tanks that had been depleted during the first phase of the rescue mission.

The rescue operation was started on Sunday as more rain is expected this week, which would make it harder to rescue the boys.

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In all, 12 boys and their coach had been stuck in the Tham Luang cave network since June 23, when water levels partially flooded the escape routes.

Two divers accompanied the boys, all of whom have been learning to dive only since July 2, when the first searchers found them.

The divers will stop off at scheduled points throughout the journey stocked with extra oxygen tanks, allowing the crew to replenish themselves and the boys they are guiding.

But four boys had emerged by 8 p.m., quite a bit ahead of schedule - and all the more remarkable because the boys are novice swimmers, with no diving experience. Officials have said storms forecast for Chiang Rai province in Thailand's far north had factored into their decision to go ahead with a complicated and unsafe plan to have the boys and their coach dive out of the cave.

Weather forecasters warned heavy rain could hit the area through the week.

The cave complex is off-limits during the rainy season, which usually runs from May to October, when downpours can quickly flood it. Relatives said the boys had been inside the complex during the dry season. The families have not yet been able to interact with the boys out of fears of infection.

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Officials last week said they would bring the fittest people in the group out first, but Narongsak later said that whoever was ready first would be escorted out. Visitors would need to wear sanitized clothes and stay two meters away from the children.

Thai authorities said the rescuers, who were fully equipped, had spent five hours from the entrance of the cave to reach the children and six hours, including a break, to bring them back.

The cave rescue mission went faster than practice drills over the last few days, according to Osotthanakorn. He said that process can take several hours.

The four boys pulled from the cave Sunday in an urgent and unsafe operation that involved them diving through the cave's tight and twisting passages were in good health.

Another four boys were taken out on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance. Onlookers were seen watching and cheering as they drove by.

Thailand officials have not released the names of the boys rescued, so as not to upset the parents of any child still trapped.

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