Eight boys rescued from Tham Luang caves

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The second shift of the rescue effort to evacuate the trapped soccer team saw a team of 18 Thai and global divers guide four boys about 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometres) to the cave's entrance using a 3-mile (4.8 kilometre) rope on Monday.

But rescuing the remaining five people, who include the boys' 25-year-old soccer coach, could take more than one operation, Narongsak said. After Monday's rescue effort, four boys and their coach were still inside the labyrinth cave.

Overnight, the entrepreneur Elon Musk posted on social media that he had personally delivered a child-sized submarine to the site which he has developed to assist with the operation, but it is unlikely to play a role.

Eight boys have been rescued so far while the remaining four boys and their coach still remained trapped in the cave.

Officials are hoping that the final phase of the rescue can be completed in four or five hours, Narongsak said, according to Thai Public Broadcasting.

Fresh rains on Tuesday added urgency to the final stages of the treacherous rescue bid, several kilometres inside a mountain and through flooded, tight corridors.

Thai soldiers arrive at the Tham Luang cave area as the operations continue for those still trapped inside the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 9, 2018.

Another two more boys left the cave complex a short time later followed by the fourth boy.

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While the first group to be rescued has been reunited with their parents, officials said they had to meet from a distance ― "through glass".

Rescue organisers say they need 20 hours to replan and replenish oxygen supplies, with the next rescue mission expected to come some time on Tuesday afternoon, weather permitting.

A crack team of foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALs guided the boys during a nine-hour operation through almost 4 km (2.5 miles) of sometimes submerged channels from where they have been trapped for more than a fortnight.

Dr Jesada said the first group taken out, on Sunday, were aged 14 to 16 and the second group, taken out on Monday, were aged 12 to 14.

"Potentially deadly histoplasmosis - a lung infection also known as "cave disease" and "spelunker's lung" caused by breathing in spores from animal waste - is one of several illnesses that medical experts are anxious the 12 boys and their coach could have contracted while trapped deep in the subterranean system".

The boys were exploring the caves on June 23 with their coach when they were trapped inside by heavy seasonal rains.

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. "Mini-sub is ready if needed". They are all members of a youth soccer team called the Wild Boars. "Everyone please give us moral support", Mr Narongsak said, to big applause from those present. Each boy was accompanied underwater by two divers helping them navigate the dark, murky water in the flooded tunnels.