A foreign diver involved in the mission to save 12 boys and their football coach from a flooded Thai cave has hailed the children as "incredibly strong", and described their treacherous escape journey as unprecedented.
People across Thailand cheered the rescue operation, including at the Mae Sai Prasitsart school where six of the trapped boys are students.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha was scheduled to make a second visit to the scene late on Monday and the president of soccer's governing body, FIFA, Gianni Infantino, today invited the boys to the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday if they make it out of the cave in time.
However, another official, Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, inspector general of the public health ministry, said initial blood tests "showed signs of infection". "It is not in any way normal for kids to go cave diving at age 11", Mr Ivan Karadzic, who runs a diving business in Thailand, told the BBC in an interview that was published online on Tuesday (July 10). "Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out".
Earlier, rescue operation commander Narongsak Osottanakorn said the mission began soon after 10am, involving 19 divers. The first boys rescued in what's been a days-long process were in "high spirits" and generally appeared "healthy", according to the Associated Press.
Four more of the boys were carried on stretchers out of the labyrinthine Tham Luang cave on the Myanmar border at dusk on Monday, bringing to eight the number brought out after two rescue pushes on successive days.
Two of the boys had suspected lung infections but the four boys from the first group rescued were all walking around in hospital.
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"The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems", Dr Jedsada said.
Another four boys were rescued Monday.
The distance from where the crew is trapped to the main entrance is about a half a mile, and the boys had to travel most of that distance underwater to reach freedom.
At least nine ambulances and a convoy of other vehicles were at the cave site Tuesday.
The rescue mission began on Sunday morning, almost a week since the 12 boys, aged 11-16, and their coach had been discovered on an embankment 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) inside the winding tunnels. After they were found on July 2, officials cautioned it could take some time to get them out, but authorities chose to act with heavy rains forecast to hit the region. Authorities have said the mission could take up to four days to complete and heavy rain is forecast in the coming days.
Former Chiang Rai governor and rescue mission commander Narongsak Osotthanakorn said Monday night that it would take 20 hours to prepare for the operation, but he cautioned timings could change depending on weather and water levels.
So far it has been successful, as three boys have now emerged with the help of divers. Their 25-year-old football coach was the last to come out.
Musk tweeted: "Just returned from Cave 3". Tuesday, referring to the name of the trapped boys' soccer team.
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