First boys rescued healthy and asking for fried rice in hospital

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.

At a news conference, Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food, though they can't yet take the spicy food favoured by many Thais.

Nargonsak said this phase may take longer than the previous two rescue missions, which both lasted several hours.

The Thai navy SEALS confirmed that four boys had been freed from the cave on Monday, bringing the total number of children rescued from the flooded cave system to eight. It is not immediately clear how the rains had affected levels inside the cave.

Thai officials had said Sunday that they were temporarily suspending the rescue effort so they could replenish oxygen supplies and other gear.

Two of the boys had suspected lung infections but the four boys from the first group rescued were all walking around their hospital beds.

Technology billionaire Elon Musk went into the cave on Monday and left the rescue team with a "kid-sized" submarine his company SpaceX had built, Thailand's interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said.

The Thai rescue team members walk inside a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23.

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Eight of the thirteen people trapped in a cave in northern Thailand have been freed after a meticulously planned rescue effort. Another and perhaps more worrying concern was that oxygen levels in the complex were falling close to risky levels.

Officials lavished praise on the Thai and global divers who executed the risky rescue mission, guiding boys who can barely swim and have no diving experience through a treacherous 4-kilometre-long (2 1/2-mile) escape route that twisted and turned and rose and fell inside the mountain cave complex.

Thai policemen secure the road leading to Tham Luang cave area as rescue 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.

Still, the four were undergoing medical checks in a hospital in Chiang Rai city, the provincial capital, and were not yet allowed close contact with relatives, due to fear of infections.

Four boys and the coach are still trapped.

The safety of the divers, who have meticulously planned the mission, is also paramount.

Narongsak said rescuers would meet Monday evening to plan for the next operation. "We believe that we can do even better and it will be a 100 percent success", he said.

They were found last Monday by two expert British divers. Add Thailand Cave Rescue as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Thailand Cave Rescue news, video, and analysis from ABC News. Each of the rescued boys has been guided through the dark winding cave by a pair of divers.

More worrying, however, oxygen levels in the chamber where the boys sought refuge were falling.

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