An eleventh boy has been rescued from a flooded Thai cave complex after more than two weeks underground, raising hopes all 13 members of a soccer team will be out by the end of the day.
A Reuters witness has now seen three people being carried out of the Tham Luang cave on stretchers on Tuesday, the third day of the rescue operation.
Eight of the boys were brought out on stretchers over the first two days – four each on Sunday and Monday.
The operation is moving into its final stages, and the head of the rescue, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said earlier it would be “more challenging” on Tuesday because one more survivor would be brought out, along with three Navy SEALs who have been accompanying them.
But he said the rescuers have been learning from experience and were two hours faster in bringing the second batch of survivors out on Monday.
“I hope today we will be faster or the same speed as yesterday,” Narongsak said.
A team of foreign divers – including Australians – and Thai Navy SEALS has been guiding the boys out through nearly four kilometres of sometimes submerged, pitch-dark channels.
The soccer team and their coach got trapped by a downpour on June 23 when they set out to explore the vast cave complex after practice.
British divers found the 13, huddled on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, on Monday last week.
The eight boys brought out on Sunday and Monday are in good health overall and some asked for chocolate bread for breakfast, officials said.
Two of the boys had suspected lung infections but the four boys from the first group rescued are all walking around their hospital beds.
They are still being quarantined from their parents because of the risk of infection and would likely be kept in hospital for a week to undergo tests, officials said.
Just one boy and his 25-year-old coach remain trapped.
The boys freed from the cave in the past couple of days are said to be in “high spirits” and are recovering in hospital.