8 out of 13 now rescued from Thailand cave

An ambulance leaves the Tham Luang cave area

An ambulance leaves the Tham Luang cave area

The general leading the huge global effort to rescue the young footballers and their coach thanked the god of rain for his forbearance, as the boys were guided out of the Tham Luang caves in full-face masks - easier than traditional respirators for novice divers to use - during an intense nine-hour operation.

Spicy Thai basil leaves on rice, or Pad Krapao, was the meal of choice for the four Mu Pa Academy football players after they were rescued from Tham Luang Cave on Sunday, rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said on Monday.

Four boys were rescued from the underground caves on Sunday, bringing the total number of recovered children to eight.

On Sunday, officials said it could "take days" to rescue the remaining boys and their coach.

Torrential rain had not affected conditions for the rescue operation.

"They need to undergo more medical tests", he told reporters yesterday.

The first four boys to be rescued are aged 14 to 16, and two of them possibly have a lung infection - all are expected to stay in hospital for at least seven days.

On Monday afternoon, Osatanakorn said the same group of divers involved in Sunday's rescue operation had entered the cave at 11 a.m. local time to rescue the group still stuck inside.

A crack team of foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALs guided the boys during a nine-hour operation through almost 4 km (2.5 miles) of sometimes submerged channels from where they have been trapped for more than a fortnight.

More rescue efforts to free the remaining five boys and their coach are underway.

Thai policemen secure the road leading to Tham Luang cave area as rescue operations continue for those still trapped inside the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 9, 2018.

All four were airlifted to a hospital in the nearest city, Chiang Rai.

The team's 25-year-old coach and four boys are still deep inside the flooded and sprawling cave.

The safety of the divers, who have meticulously planned the mission, is also paramount. They were accompanied by two professional divers each throughout.

The death on Friday of a former Thai navy Seal, Saman Gunan, underlined the risks. Narongsak on Monday said their identities were being protected out of respect for the families of those still trapped inside the cave.

Monday's rescue effort took about nine hours, two fewer than the day before, in a sign of growing confidence and expertise.

Then came the letters carried out by divers who took oxygen, food and medicine to the boys' refuge as experts evaluated whether to dive them out or provision them, perhaps until monsoon rains usually subside in late October.

Another and perhaps more worrying concern was that oxygen levels in the complex were falling close to unsafe levels.

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