UPDATE: Thailand cave rescue resumes with 5th boy rescued; rescue resumes for 8 still trapped
UPDATE: CHIANG RAI, Thailand — A fifth member of the youth soccer team trapped for more than two weeks in a waterlogged cave in Thailand was freed Monday.
Rescue workers carried a stretcher from the mouth of the cave to a waiting ambulance, which then sped away with flashing lights. A Thai navy official later confirmed that the boy emerged around 5 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET).
On Sunday, expert divers brought out four of the 13 who were trapped, only to pause their efforts overnight as more air canisters were placed along the underwater route.
The same divers who took part in Sunday's rescue in the huge Tham Luang complex were deployed Monday because they know the cave, authorities said. Heavy rains in the area eased by Monday morning.
The latest rescue came about six hours into Monday's mission.
Soccer team’s cave trip leads to treacherous rescue attempt
A soccer coach and 12 young boys were trapped for more than a week, as rescuers fight monsoon rains that have flooded the passageway.
Sources: Thailand Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, Google Earth (DigitalGlobe, CNES/Airbus) Graphic: Roque Ruiz and Jiachuan Wu / NBC News
The four boys rescued Sunday were receiving medical treatment at Prachanukroh hospital in Chiang Rai, around 35 miles away. Its eighth floor has been reserved for the soccer team, their coach and their families — who have maintained a vigil by the entrance to the cave while the boys have been underground.
Officials said the four rescued boys were hungry but in good health.
Somboon Sompiangjai, 38, the father of one of the trapped boys, said parents were told by rescuers ahead of Sunday's operation the "strongest children" would be brought out first.
Onlookers cheer as ambulances deliver boys rescued from a cave to a hospital on Sunday.Lauren DeCicca / Getty Images
The 12 boys — ages 11 to 16 — entered the massive cave complex on the frontier of Thailand and Myanmar with their 25-year-old coach on June 23. The group became stranded after torrential monsoon rains caused the system to flood and were missing for nine days before being discovered by two British divers early last week.
Ivan Karadzic, a Danish dive instructor who lives in Thailand and who was involved in Sunday's rescue effort as a support diver, said that the operation "went surprisingly well, we were expecting bad things to happen, and they didn't."
He added: "The kids were all totally calm."
Those rescued Sunday traveled more than half a mile underwater, according to Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osottanakorn, who is the head of the rescue mission.
Narongsak said 13 foreign divers and five Thai navy SEALs took part in the key leg of the rescue: taking the boys from where they have been sheltering and through dark, tight and twisting passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.
Two divers accompanied each of the boys, all of whom have been learning to dive only since July 2, when the first searchers found them.
The journey had taken as long as five hours from the part of the cave where the boys are to the exit when the water level was high and the current was strong, but that was down to around 2 ½ hours by Sunday, Karadzic said.
He was hopeful that Monday's operation would go smoothly.
"Obviously we need to be careful not to be overconfident," Karadzic said. "But it was just incredibly well-planned. We thought of everything that could happen, everything that could break, anything that can go bad."
On Friday, the death of a former Thai Navy SEAL diver who lost consciousness while returning from placing air tanks deep inside the caves underscored the risky nature of the operation.
The potential for rising water and the dwindling oxygen levels added to the urgency of getting the team out. Efforts to pump water out of the cave have been set back by heavy downpours.
Narongsak said that experts told him new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 108 square feet.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was scheduled to visit the site later Monday.
The search and rescue operation has involved dozens of international experts and rescuers, including a U.S. military team.