Officials in Thailand believe it could take up to four days to rescue the remaining children and their coach trapped inside a flooded cave.
Four boys were freed today after spending 15 days inside the winding cavern system, with no easy way out. However, according to the latest update by the Associated Press, experts on the scene fear it will take days to save the eight kids remaining inside, as well as their coach. All of the boys are between the ages of 11 and 16 years old, and are reportedly frightened and malnourished.
After one group of youngsters was extricated on Sunday night local time, rescuers reportedly had to stop their rescue attempts to replenish the air tanks along the four kilometer-long route to safety. It took a team of Thai Navy SEALs and other divers from around the globe about nine hours to retrieve the boys on Sunday, according to a report by CNN. The passage includes a stretch at least one kilometer long where the cave is barely wide enough for a single person to pass through, and it is filled with water from floor to ceiling.
The rescue efforts have included attempts to drain the cave system, which showed some success this weekend. The nine-hour trip on Sunday was estimated at 11 hours initially. However, heavy rains now reportedly have the water levels rising again, and it is only expected to get worse. In the coming days, monsoon season is expected to begin, effectively making the cave inaccessible until October.
Right now, the boys remain on a small muddy ledge where they await rescue. Their refuge is about 2.5 miles from the entrance, and is sealed on either side with water. Not only are rescuers racing against the rising water levels to save them -- they are racing against the dwindling oxygen supply inside.
Gov. Osotthanakorn told reporters that the boys who have been saved wore "full face masks and the rescue divers carried them out through the passage in the cave complex."
"It was a very smooth operation today," he added. The survivors were taken immediately to the nearby hospital in Chiang Rai. Their names have not been released, though experts who have examined them said that the boys' condition was "not that bad."
Even expert divers from around the world told CNN that these are some of the most extreme conditions they've ever experienced inside of a cave. Already, one Thai Navy SEAL lost his life in the effort to save the children.