‘Good news’ expected in Thai cave rescue mission

Rescue workers dived deep inside a flooded Thai cave for a second straight day Monday in a treacherous bid to save a group of young footballers, with the mission chief promising more “good news” after four of the 13 were saved.

Sunday’s surprisingly quick extraction of the initial batch of four, who were guided out of a network of flooded tunnels by elite divers, fuelled optimism that the others would also be quickly rescued.

“All the equipment is ready. Oxygen bottles are ready,” rescue operations chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters on Monday afternoon after announcing the second phase of the rescue bid had begun.

“In the next few hours we will have good news.”

Shortly after 5pm (1000 GMT) local time AFP reporters saw a stretcher being carried from an ambulance into a waiting police helicopter, as rumours swirled of a fifth evacuation from the cave.

But the view of the stretcher was shielded by large umbrellas held up by police and soldiers.

Thais have been fixated on the crisis, hoping desperately for the safe return of the 12 boys and their 25-year-old football coach, after they ventured into the Tham Luang cave complex after practice and became trapped by rising waters on June 23.

The saga has also dominated global headlines, with the team spending nine days unaccounted for inside the cave, before British divers found the emaciated and dishevelled group huddling on a muddy bank above the flooding.

Authorities then struggled to determine the best way to save the “Wild Boar” football team, with the group stuck on a shelf more than four kilometres (2.5 miles) inside the cave in pitch darkness.

Among the ideas were drilling an escape route through the mountain, or leaving them for months until the monsoon season ended and the flooding subsided.

But with oxygen levels inside dropping to dangerous lows and the prospect of heavy rains flooding the area completely, authorities decided they had to move quickly, and take the group out through the water-filled tunnels.

Dozens of foreign divers and other experts from around the world were brought in to help the rescue effort, working alongside Thai Navy SEALs. (AFP)

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