“The 9th Wild Boar was out of the cave at 4:06pm,” the Thai Navy Seals posted on Facebook today (July 10), the projected final day of the mission.
A source said the 10th came out shortly, followed by the 11th and 12th at 6:25pm. Their 25-year-old football coach was the last to come out.
"The 10th is at the cave entrance on the way to the field hospital," a navy official told AFP, requesting anonymity. A local government official confirmed the rescue while a police source, who also did not want to be named, said "the ninth and tenth were about 20 minutes apart."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha dismissed rumours today that the boys had been drugged to facilitate the operation, saying the children had not been given an anaesthetic. "Who the hell would give that to a kid?"
He says they were given "something to make them not too nervous and panic".
Earlier today, rescue leader governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said divers are carrying out what they hope is a final mission to save four boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks, as health experts gave the eight already brought out a chocolate treat and described them as being in good spirits.
The rescue chief said today's intricate and high-risk operation began just after 10am and involved 19 divers. A doctor and three Thai Navy Seals who have stayed with the boys on a small, dry shelf deep in the flooded cave will also come out, he said.
“We expect that if there is no unusual condition... the four boys, one coach, the doctor, and three Seals who have been with the boys since the first day will come out today,” he told a news conference to loud cheering.
Mr Narongnsak said this phase may take longer than the previous two rescue missions. The first and longest mission took 11 hours.
The eight boys brought out by divers over the previous two days are in “high spirits” and have strong immune systems because they are soccer players, a senior health official said.
Doctors were being cautious because of the infection risk and were isolating the boys in the hospital. They did get a treat, however: bread with chocolate spread that they'd requested.
The plight of the boys and their coach has riveted Thailand and much of the world -- from the heart-sinking news they were missing to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found 10 days later by a pair of British divers. They were trapped in the Tham Luan Nang Non cave that became flooded by monsoon rains while they were exploring it after a soccer practice on June 23.
At a news conference, Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food, though they can't yet eat spicy food.
Two of the boys possibly have a lung infection but all eight are generally “healthy and smiling,” he said.
“The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems,” Dr Jedsada said. “Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them.”
It could be at least seven days before they can be released from hospital, Dr Jedsada told a news conference.
Family members have seen at least some of the boys from behind a glass isolation barrier, and Dr Jedsada said doctors may let the boys walk around their beds today.
It was clear doctors were taking a cautious approach. Dr Jedsada said they were uncertain what type of infections the boys could face “because we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave.”
If medical tests show no dangers, after another two days parents will be able to enter the isolation area dressed in sterilised clothing and staying two metres away from the boys, said Tosthep Bunthong, Chiang Rai Public Health Chief.
The second group of four rescued yesterday are aged 12 to 14.
At least nine ambulances and a convoy of other vehicles were at the cave site today.
Heavy rains in the morning cleared during the day, a reassuring sign for rescuers who have feared monsoon rains could imperil the rescue.
Officials scotched any chance of using tech billionaire Elon Musk's mini-sub made of rocket parts to rescue the remaining boys.
Mr Narongsak said he was grateful for Mr Musk's support but the equipment was impractical for the rescue mission.
Mr Musk today visited the cave and posted pictures and videos online. He said he left the equipment there in case rescuers could use it in the future.
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