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Media captionThere were cheers and applause as the first boys’ rescue was confirmed

Cave divers in Thailand have resumed the high-risk operation to extract the remaining eight boys and their football coach from a vast flooded cave system.

An ambulance was seen leaving the cave entrance, amid unconfirmed reports that a fifth person had been rescued.

Four boys were brought out safely on Sunday, but the mission was paused overnight for air tanks to be replaced.

The boys were trapped in the cave on 23 June after heavy rains caused flooding, but found alive last week by divers.

Rescuers decided to go ahead with the operation to free them because of fears that waters would rise again.

The rescue is complicated by sections in the cave involving diving – sometimes in a very confined space – and climbing.

Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said it had resumed at 11:00 local time (04:00 GMT).

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AFP/ROYAL THAI NAVY

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The group of boys and their coach were found after nine days

It was expected to end by 21:00, he said. “More personnel” were being used than on Sunday.

Reporters at the site said they had seen someone taken away on a stretcher to an ambulance, and a helicopter was then seen leaving the area.

The names of the rescued boys have not been released out of respect for the families whose sons were still inside, and they have not been reunited with their own families, the mission chief added.

He said physical contact with loved ones would be avoided until a risk of infection had passed, though contact through glass or at a distance might be allowed.

Mr Narongsak allayed concerns that recent heavy rain might have raised water levels, saying conditions were “as good as yesterday”. “We should hear good news again,” he added.

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Media captionThe mood is tense as people wait for any further news of the high-risk operation

Rescuers took advantage of a break in the rain on Sunday to launch the mission earlier than some expected.

The first stage of the mission ran “smoothly” and the rescued boys were in “good health”, according to the Thai authorities.

How are the boys being moved?

A team of 90 expert divers – 40 from Thailand and 50 from overseas – has been working in the cave system.

They have been guiding the boys through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the Tham Luang cave system.

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Media captionChild psychiatrist: “It will be a challenge for these children to go back to normal life”

Getting to and from where the boys are has been an exhausting round trip, even for the experienced divers.

The process includes a mixture of walking, wading, climbing and diving along guide ropes already in place.

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.

In an indication of how dangerous the journey can be, a former Thai navy diver died in the caves on Friday. Saman Gunan was returning from a mission to provide the group with air tanks when he ran out of oxygen.

He lost consciousness and could not be revived. His colleagues said they would “not let the sacrifice of our friend go to waste”.

Who are the boys and their coach?

  • Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11 (Nickname: Titan) – started playing football aged seven
  • Panumas Sangdee, 13 (Nickname: Mig), wrote to his parents: “The Navy Seals are taking good care of me”
  • Duganpet Promtep, 13 (Nickname: Dom) – captain of the Wild Boars, reportedly scouted by several Thai professional clubs
  • Somepong Jaiwong, 13 (nickname: Pong) – reportedly dreams of playing for the Thai national team
  • Mongkol Booneiam, 13 (nickname: Mark) – described by his teacher as a “very respectful and good child”
  • Nattawut Takamrong, 14 (nickname: Tern) – told his parents not to worry about him
  • Ekarat Wongsukchan, 14 (nickname: Bew) – promised his mother he would help her at the shop once he was rescued
  • Adul Sam-on, 14 – member of a volleyball team that came second in a North Thailand-wide tournament
  • Prajak Sutham, 15 (nickname: Note) – described by family friends as a “smart, quiet guy”
  • Pipat Pho, 15 (nickname: Nick) – wrote in his letter he wanted his parents to take him for barbecued food once rescued
  • Pornchai Kamluang, 16 (nickname: Tee) – told his parents “don’t worry, I’m very happy”
  • Peerapat Sompiangjai, 17 (nickname: Night) – it was his birthday the day the boys went missing, and his parents have told him they are still waiting to hold his birthday party
  • Assistant coach Ekapol Chantawong (nickname Ake), 25 – apologised in his letter to the parents, but they replied that they did not blame him

How did the group get there?

The boys were found inside the cave by British rescue divers a week ago, about 4km (2.5 miles) from the cave mouth.

Aged between 11 and 17, they belong to a football club called the Wild Boars, and became trapped during an excursion with their coach.

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Media captionWife and father remember ‘hero’ Thai diver: “He loved helping others”

It took nine days to find them in the underground network’s dark depths.

Race against the rain

Officials had originally thought the group might have to stay where they were until the rainy season ended – and that could have meant months underground.

But with the rainy season just beginning, it has become clear that the flooding which originally trapped the boys will only get worse in the coming days.

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Media captionThailand cave rescue: Meet the volunteer helpers

Rescuers have been desperately pumping water out of the cave, and Mr Narongsak said on Sunday that water levels inside were at their lowest levels so far.



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