'Everybody will be out TODAY' – Thailand cave divers begin final mission to free last of trapped footballers
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'Everybody will be out TODAY' – Thailand cave divers begin final mission to free last of trapped footballers

A FINAL PUSH to rescue the remaining school boys and their football coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand began this morning.

Day three of the rescue operation began at 10.08am local time today as the first eight boys - freed on Sunday and Monday - continued to recuperate at a hospital in nearby Chiang Rai.

Some 19 divers have re-entered Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand and as with the previous rescues, two divers will escort each of the footballers out of the cave with tethers.

The remaining four Wild Boar FC players aged 11-17 and their 25-year-old coach have been trapped on a small ledge some 3.2km inside the cave complex since June 23.

The group were discovered by British divers 10 days later and rescue operations have been accelerated after further monsoon conditions were predicted.

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Torrential rain struck the cave site on Monday evening and the downpour continued through Tuesday morning, but authorities said preparations for the final rescue mission were unaffected.

"You have seen the rain so you might be wondering – preparation for the third operation has been under way since early morning," Chiang Rai Province Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said this morning.

"If everything goes right, we will see four kids and a doctor and three Seals that have stayed with the kids will all come out. Four plus one coach, so it’s five."

The optimistic mood was in contrast to the saddened atmosphere at the cave last week, after former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, 37, died while laying air tanks underground on Thursday.

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Officials said all eight of the boys rescued so far were "good physically and mentally", though two of the four brought out on Monday had swollen lungs.

Early tests indicate all of the boys could be suffering from lung infections, with full blood test results expected in the next 24 hours.

"[Parents] visited them through a window due to disease control," Gov. Osatanakorn explained.

"If the lab results are negative – no infection or any disease – they can visit but they have to wear [medical] gown, face mask and hair cap."

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He said they would need to keep at least two metres away for their boys for at least 48 hours, until "we are sure there is no infection, then they can visit them normally".

Osatanakorn added that relatives would need to keep at least two metres away from the boys for at least 48 hours, until "we are sure there is no infection, then they can visit them normally."

Hospital officials said the boys could eat bland foods, but not anything spicy.

"The boys are still requesting the Thai basil fried rice, but they're not allowed to eat it yet," they said.

It is understood that none of the boys will be discharged for at least seven days.