Cave rescue operation ends as all trapped Thai boys are freed - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Cave rescue operation ends as all trapped Thai boys are freed

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After 17 long nights trapped in a dark and damp cave, four remaining boys and their soccer coach were freed one-by-one by divers in Thailand on Tuesday.

Rescuers started the day hoping to free the boys and a 25-year-old coach who had been stranded for more than two weeks. The first of the group emerged Tuesday afternoon local time with the others following soon after, ending an eight hour and 15-minute operation.

The complicated rescue operation started on Sunday when expert divers brought out the first four boys. They then went back in on Monday and retrieved four more.

A medic and three Thai Navy SEALs who had stayed deep inside the mountain since the 13 missing males were found on July 2 also needed to navigate the narrow, water-logged passages in the cave complex. As of 8 a.m. ET, they had not yet returned to the surface.

The boys vanished on June 23 after seasonal rains flooded the caverns and narrow passages, blocking their exit from the popular tourist destination. Nine days later, two British divers found the group.

A Thai-led international group of rescue specialists and diving experts then started planning the best way to free the boys from the cave complex.

At 10 a.m. local time (11 p.m. ET Monday) on Tuesday, 19 divers entered the caves. Another 100 divers and rescuers, along with ambulances and other vehicles were in the area as the operation began.

On Sunday, rescuers brought out the first four boys and four more followed on Monday.

Image: Thai rescue

Ambulances go into the Tham Luang cave complex in Thailand's northern Chiang Rai province on Tuesday.Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

The initial eight who were freed are in good health, officials said Tuesday. They were receiving medical treatment at a hospital in Chiang Rai.

Jetsada Chokdumrongsuk, a public health official, told reporters that the boys were given antibiotics, rabies vaccines and vitamin B2 and showed no signs of fever or vision problems.

They could communicate normally and were able to stand up, walk around and get dressed themselves, he said. They even chatted with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha when he came to the hospital.

X-rays revealed that two of the boys had suspected lung infections, but doctors were awaiting lab tests, Jetsada said.

In an effort to control infection, doctors were not allowing visitors. Positive test results would mean face-to-face visits between the boys and their families would be possible at the hospital.

So far, only the first group of four boys — ages 14 to 16 — have been able to see their families through glass windows, Jetsada said.

"They’re homesick and they miss their parents, and they're very happy to be here,” he added.

Image: Rescuers near Thai cave complex

Rescuers prepare to enter the cave complex on Tuesday.Sakchai Lalit / AP

This boys were “often hungry” during their ordeal and they “need a lot of food,” Jetsada said, adding that they have requested bread and chocolate spread. They've been given soft, easily digestible medical-grade food that is high in nutrients.

After divers found the group in the caves last week, they were given energy gels and baby food to help their bodies slowly adjust to solids.

The second group, ages 12 to 14, were all hospitalized with low body temperatures, though they’d since stabilized.

It could be another week before the boys are released from the hospital, officials said.

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