Four more of the boys were carried on stretchers out of the labyrinthine Tham Luang cave on the Myanmar border on Monday, bringing to eight the total number brought out so far after two rescue pushes in successive days.
The plan laid out has been set to save four at time, leaving in doubt whether rescuing the remaining boys and their coach on the same mission will be possible.
Jesada Chokdumrongsuk, deputy director-general of the Public Health Ministry, said Tuesday that the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food.
Local governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said Tuesday's rescue operation began just after 10am local time and involves 19 divers. It could reportedly take two to four days to complete the mission, officials said, so there is a chance that Musk's mini-sub will be there before the rescue is concluded.
Four boys and the coach are still to be rescued.
"But what we're most concerned with is infections".
"We have more expertise than yesterday", he said.
The general leading the huge worldwide effort to rescue the young footballers and their coach thanked the god of rain for his forbearance, as the boys were guided out of the Tham Luang caves in full-face masks - easier than traditional respirators for novice divers to use - during an intense nine-hour operation. It ended with their fighting cheer, adopted from the U.S. Navy: "Hooyah!" Crowds at the teeming rescue site cheer the good news, but attention soon turns to the hard task of getting the boys out safely.
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Heavy rains lashed the northern Thai region late Monday and a steady downpour has continued Tuesday. They were trapped in the Tham Luan Nang Non cave that became flooded by monsoon rains while they were exploring it after a soccer practice on June 23.
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.
He said rescuers told the parents that the "strongest children" would be brought out first. They'll be allowed to enter the room if tests show the boys are free of infection. A massive worldwide search operation was launched and it took 10 days to locate the boys, who had taken shelter on a dry slope, deep in the complex.
Rescued schoolboys are moved from a military helicopter to an awaiting ambulance at a military airport in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 9, 2018.
Monday's mission involved 18 divers from Thailand and overseas. Narongsak on Monday said their identities were being protected out of respect for the families of those still trapped inside the cave.
"The divers that were assembled from many countries are proud to have conducted this operation until its success", Narongsak said.