International desk, July 9: Cave divers in Thailand are poised to restart the high-risk operation to extract the remaining eight boys and their football coach from a vast flooded cave system.Four boys were brought safely out of the cave on Sunday.
But the mission was paused overnight for air tanks to be replaced.
Rescuers decided to go ahead with the hazardous operation because of fears of rising waters. The group have been trapped since 23 June.
The next phase of the mission to save them was set to begin Monday morning, after relaying “all of the air tanks and all systems along the way”, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said on Sunday.
Activity at the dive site suggests that the operation to free the remaining members of the group may be about to resume.
Divers have been guiding the boys through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the Tham Luang cave system. They have reportedly been able to make the last part of the journey on foot.
Rescuers took advantage of a break in the rain to launch the mission much earlier than originally expected.
The first phase has also been conducted much faster than officials had predicted.
A team of 90 expert divers – 40 from Thailand and 50 from overseas – has been working in the cave system.
Getting to and from where the boys are has been an exhausting round trip, even for the experienced divers.
Wearing full-face masks, which are easier for novice divers than traditional respirators, each boy is being accompanied by two divers, who also carry his air supply.
The toughest part is about halfway out at a section named “T-Junction”, which is so tight the divers have to take off their air tanks to get through.
Beyond that a cavern – called Chamber 3 – has been turned into a forward base for the divers.
There the boys can rest before making the last, easier walk out to the entrance. They are then taken to hospital in Chiang Rai.