Thai navy SEALs say a ninth boy has been rescued Tuesday from a flooded cave as divers carry out what they hope is a final mission to save the remaining boys and their soccer coach after more than two weeks.
Confirming the completion of the rescue operation, the Thai Navy Seals Facebook page announced: "All 12 Wild Boars and coach have been extracted from the cave".
"All are safe" it added, signing off with a "Hooyah", a SEALs signature throughout the painstaking mission to get the boys out of the cave.
In a day of high drama, the remaining five boys emerged in groups as evening approached, guided out by global divers and the SEALs, who have played an integral role throughout an unprecedented rescue mission.
They are part of a youth soccer team known as the Wild Boars.
He said hunger for details had pushed the Thai media to great lengths in covering the rescue, with one outlet under investigation for flying a drone in military airspace and another not only intercepting but broadcasting army communications.
That left two boys and their 25-year-old coach still inside the cave but authorities were confident of getting them all out by Tuesday evening via a claustrophobic network of tunnels that in some places were completely filled with water.
Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, Inspector General of the public health ministry, said the first four - aged 14 to 16 - taken out on Sunday were eating normal, plain food.
The rescue mission is expected to resume Tuesday morning local time to bring out the remainder of the team.
Nine days later, they were found dishevelled and emaciated but alive on a muddy ledge about four kilometres inside the complex cave system.
The plight of the boys and their coach has drawn worldwide attention, with divers, engineers and medics among others flying in from around the world to assist.
The rescue chief said Tuesday's intricate and high-risk operation began just after 10am and involves 19 divers.
"The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems", Jesada said.
There was some rain on Sunday, which caused some water to go into the cave, but officials were able to pump an nearly equal amount of water out.
"Although his technology is good and sophisticated, it's not practical for this mission", Osatanakorn said after the press conference.
It was clear doctors were taking a cautious approach.
More rescue efforts to free the remaining five boys and their coach are underway. "We should treat them like disaster victims, and not like theyve done anything wrong".
But although the eight were rescued, there were concerns they may have contracted an illness while in the cave. Tracy also noted that the glimpse we've seen of the trapped boys showed they appeared to be in good spirits.
"They have the best of the best over there, they certainly can't ask for better people helping them right now", he said.
"If the rain god helps us, then we may be able to work fast", the head of the rescue mission, Narongsak told reporters.