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Thai cave rescue to continue

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Four more boys have been evacuated from the flooded Tham Luang cave complex, the chief of the rescue mission Narongsak Osottanakorn confirmed at a news conference, reported Channel News Asia (Singapore).

He added that the rescue operation took nine hours, two hours quicker than the mission that saw the first four boys rescued from the cave complex.

"Yesterday, our rescue operation began at 10.18am and we delivered the last boy at the hospital at 9.30pm, which is about 11 hours," Narongsak said.

"Today, however, we began the evacuation at 11am and finished at about 8pm - nine hours. We're two hours quicker than yesterday."

This, he added, was made possible by the involvement of more rescuers and the experience gained the day before. More than 100 rescuers, including 18 divers, were involved in Monday's rescue effort.

"We're more confident today. We worked faster. I'm so happy," Narongsak said. "Thank you for the whole country that has helped us."

He said the four boys rescued on Monday have been sent to the hospital and their conditions are good, "better than those brought out yesterday. Now they're all conscious".

"The conditions of the remaining five are still good, according to the doctor," he added.

The operation is set to resume on Tuesday to evacuate the remaining five. Whether they will succeed in getting all of them out will depend on Monday night's planning and preparation, Narongsak said.

"We'll start preparing for the next rescue operation, and we believe we'll do better than today and it will be highly successful," the rescue mission chief said.

During the press conference, Thai authorities said they were hoping it wouldn't rain for the rest of the rescue operation so that the process could be faster.

"We ask the God of Rain for just three more days, so all the 'Wild Boars' can come out of the caves to see the world."

Narongsak quipped: "If the God of Rain has mercy for us, we may be able to finish it fast. If not, we may have to work harder."

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha paid a visit to all the rescue teams on Monday before leaving to see the evacuees at the hospital in the city centre.

After meeting with Thai SEAL officials and the other rescue teams involved in the operation, he said that this incident was a lesson to be learned and should never happen again in Thailand.

Following the successful evacuation on Sunday, rescue personnel assessed their performance and adjusted the plan for Monday, resulting in "a smooth, coordinated operation", deputy commander of the Third Army Maj Gen Chalongchai Chaiyakham told reporters.

How the next mission will be carried out depends on Monday's assessment.

"If everything turns out as we've expected, whether it be the weather or readiness of the rescue team, there should be nothing to worry about," Chalongchai said.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing along with their 25-year-old coach on Jun 23, after they set out to explore the Tham Luang cave complex in a forest park near the border with Myanmar.

They became trapped underground after a monsoon season downpour flooded the tunnels.

The four boys who were evacuated on Sunday are said to be doing well.

Divers held the boys close to bring them out, and each had to wear an oxygen mask to enable normal breathing, authorities said.

The boys, who have not been identified, were kept away from visitors due to concerns about possible infection.

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American space entrepreneur Elon Musk tweeted that he was in Thailand with a prototype mini-sub, at the flooded cave where five members of a youth football team remained trapped, reported Channel News Asia (Singapore).

"Just returned from Cave 3," Musk said.
"Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids' soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future."

On Instagram, he published a video of a flooded cave, with rescuers.
Cave Three is about 2km from the entrance of the cave network and is the base for Thai rescuers.

The footballers still awaiting rescue are about 2km further in, at a point very difficult to access.

There is no indication so far that Thai rescuers plan to use Musk's prototype.

By Monday night, elite divers had managed to bring out eight members of the football team which included 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach.

The Thai rescue effort has been assisted by experts from around the world, and the death of a former Thai Navy SEAL diver who ran out of oxygen in the cave on Friday underscored the dangers of the mission.

After garnering headlines with initial ideas of installing a giant air tube inside the cave complex and using his firm's penetrating radar to dig holes to reach the boys, Musk offered his idea for the mini-sub.

He called it "basically a tiny, kid-size submarine using the liquid oxygen transfer tube of (a) Falcon rocket as hull."

Musk said it was light enough to be carried by two divers, robust, and small enough to get through narrow gaps.

The person inside need not swim or know how to use oxygen bottles.
He posted a video of divers escorting the pod during testing in a Los Angeles swimming pool.

Last week, Musk said he was sending teams to Thailand from his private space exploration firm, SpaceX, and engineering firm, Boring Co. which is developing tunnelling systems for transport projects.

While offering the mini-submarine as a potential saviour, Musk used the opportunity to promote space exploration. He is also co-founder of the Tesla electric car company.

The Thai football team ventured into the Tham Luang cave complex after practice and became trapped by rising waters more than a fortnight ago.

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